Their congregations are diverse and transient. Some have scheduled religious services but often, ministering happens in the hallways.
They are airport chaplains, and sometimes, they’re busier than TSA agents.
Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with two chaplains, Bishop D.D. Hayes at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and Rev. Chris Piasta, at John F. Kennedy Airport’s Our Lady of the Skies.
The chaplains say they minister to travelers, but also to flight crews and airport employees. Travelers come to the chapels, but the chaplains also take to the terminals to speak to people who might want someone to talk to.
Rev. Piasta says his most memorable parishioner was a man who was unable to get back to France because he didn’t have any documents, and lived in the airport for nine months.
“He, of course, didn’t live in the hotels, so once every few weeks we had to replace his entire clothing,” Piasta said. “We had to place him in a hotel so that he could take a shower, so he could shave himself. It was a completely different set of assistance that he needed, and of course, a lot of spiritual and maybe even psychological help that was needed.”
Bishop Hayes has ministered to people who received bad news while they were on flights.
“A flight attendant was coming from overseas back to DFW because she just lost her husband,” Hayes said. “While she was flying back to DFW, her 19-year-old son got killed. So it was devastating. I had to break the news to her.”
Piasta says the thinks people reach out the chaplains, and are responsive when they reach out, because traveling can be a profoundly lonely experience.
“People who are going through the airport are very vulnerable, and probably at 35,000 feet, you might be the loneliest person alive,” Piasta said.
- Bishop D.D. Hayes, interfaith chaplain at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
- Reverend Chris Piasta, Roman Catholic priest at John F. Kennedy Airport’s Our Lady of the Skies Chapel.