TRUMBULL—Clear skies and light winds made Tuesday the perfect day for an inspiring mission of hope and healing—abroad a Cessna 172. Accompanied by the Blessed Sacrament encased in a monstrance and a statue of the Blessed Mother, Father Brian Gannon, pastor of St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, and associate pastor Father Flavian Bejan bestowed prayers of protection as the plane flew above the Diocese of Bridgeport, a spectacular flight meant to calm the faithful amid growing anxiety over the coronavirus.
Departing mid-morning from Sikorsky Memorial Airport, the four-seater traveled the border of Fairfield County, north through Newtown and Danbury, down to Stamford and the shoreline, and over Trumbull, before returning to Stratford. This whole experience, Father Gannon said, was a call for God’s grace to enter our souls.
“We offered blessings on all people of the diocese,” he said. “It wasn’t just a bird’s-eye view. We had God’s view.”
This mission, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 8013, was the third of its kind for pilot John DeCastra, son-in-law of Tom Monks, a member of the St. Theresa Knights. A lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, DeCastra earlier this month initiated similar flyovers in the dioceses of Camden, NJ and Harrisburg, Penn., taking time out from his position at a base in Atlantic City to inspire others.
“He uses his talents for God,” Monks said of his son-in-law. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something you never forget.”
Prior to take-off, Father Gannon led a brief ceremony in the airport’s hanger, praying for a safe flight as those present knelt before the Eucharist. Dressed in the traditional black cassock and white surplice, he also wore a yellow gold cope, a cape-like vestment for special liturgies outside of Mass, and a biretta, a three-sided black cap. “I wanted to wear the proper vestments (for the occasion),” Father Gannon said. “We can never pay God back for all He has given us, but we can give Him the best from us.”
A thousand feet over Fairfield County, the priests held close the monstrance and Blessed Mother statue, continuously reciting prayers for people afflicted with COVID-19 as well as blessings on those striving to find a cure, healthcare workers, and anyone facing anxiety.
“God has an avenue to reach us,” said Dominick Angiolillo, Deputy Grand Knight from St. Theresa who was present when the Cessna took flight. “I believe this ‘flyover blessing’ is comforting. This is a message of hope and peace.”
Adding to their intentions for the protection and good health of God’s people, Father Gannon encouraged everyone to turn to Him in these uncertain times.
“When we feel fear and suffering, we remember how the Lord suffered in the flesh,” he said. “He walked as we do. We trust in Him—the source of all love and purpose—and feel His presence now.”
By Emily Clark