This airplane was held up by all the saints
Prelate priest Ireneusz Skubiś interviews Fr. Zbigniew Stefaniak – the chaplain of the airport of Fryderyk Chopin in Warsaw.
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: -The Polish airport - Okęcie has experienced a real shock in the recent days, connected with the landing of a Polish airplane arriving to Warsaw from New York. I admit that while travelling to Kraków by car, I also was saying a part of the Rosary prayer for this intention fervently, and then I sighed with relief like the whole Poland and families waiting for their relatives in the airport. Dear priest, you, as the chaplain of the airport, were intensely experiencing everything what was happening at that time, and officially indicating God’s Providence at the same time. Please, tell us about your experience on that day.
FR. ZBIGNIEW STEFANIAK: - I learnt about the emergency landing of the Boeing 767 when I was outside the airport. When I got there, passengers had already been evacuated out of the airplane, and they were in rooms prepared for them. Everybody was agitated. They were aware of the fact that their life was given to them, that they received another chance. They knew that they had experienced death. So were the workers of the airport emotionally agitated, who were accompanying the passengers. Something spiritual was felt there, and it was seen that people had touched the mystery of the frailty of the human life. Something disappointed, which was supposed not to disappoint because systems steering these machines are practically reliable. However, it turned out that they did not work. I think that a man opens himself to God more when he sees his own weakness and his littleness. This experience also raised much good among people. Our workers were equal to the task as far as care is concerned which they gave to the passengers and people waiting before the great unknown. It was something beautiful. Such a paradox: a dramatic situation releases the good…
- You mentioned that people directed their thoughts to God in this very difficult situation.
- When it had already been known what danger they were going to face, many people were praying. One woman said that she had been saying the Rosary prayer, another woman was praying with her husband; they believed that God would look after them. And there was an unusual peace in these people. They were strongly agitated emotionally, touched by the situation but calm. Although they had to wait long before they left the airport, nobody was impatient or nobody had any pretence. Many people spoke about this experience as a given life to them. I think that there is something good when a deeper look at the reality wakes up in people who are in a rush nowadays and who do not have time. It also concerns the workers of the airport taking care of the passengers of that airplane because they were so close to those events, as everything was happening in their eyes. They were also spiritually moved.
- In one of the interviews you said that this airplane was saved by all the saints...
- It is believed among us in the airport that it was a supernatural intervention and on the All Saints’ Day it was them – figuratively speaking – who were holding the wings of that plane and that their care brought everything to the happy ending and the plane landed as if on its wheels.
- And all this was happening at the time of the Hour of Mercifulness...
- Yes, indeed, at the special moment, about 3pm.
- God showed those people His special grace, he gave them life the second time – not depriving the excellent crew of the plane of anything...
- The professionalism of our pilots and the excellent preparation of the whole crew were a great support for the travellers. Being aware of the danger which everybody was facing, they proved their great courage and self-control. This is the good which also should be read out from here.
- How does the ministry of a priest in the airport look like?
- It is a ministration of accompanying, being among people and the access of passengers and staff to a priest. People travel in very different circumstances. Going into the air space, they often realize the frailty of a man. Their travel is often connected with some difficult circumstances of their life. People fly not only on their holiday but also to their ill relatives, and sometimes to funerals of their relatives and in order to start a new stage of their life. These are sometimes very difficult circumstances in which a man is looking for God and support. Then many such people come to the chapel for a while of a prayer or silence in front of God in order to find themselves anew. They sometimes need a conversation, ask for a confession and the chaplain should be at their disposal. If God wants to use him, then it is also a kind of grace.
- Is the Holy Mass celebrated in Okęcie airport every day?
- We have regular Holy Mass on Sundays and Holidays – at 8.00 am, 10.00 am and 11.00 am – attended by passengers and people accompanying them and also the workers of the airport as well as visitors. Whereas on workdays the Holy Mass is flexible and depends on the passenger traffic, and mainly on pilgrimage groups. For there is a custom that pilgrimage groups, which fly from our airport to the Holy Land or Rome, begin their pilgrimage with the Holy Mass in the chapel of the airport. Then we adjust the time of celebrating the Eucharist to their flight. It is an occasion for the pastoral ministry as well.
- Have also other airports in Poland got such a pastoral help?
- Yes, the majority of airports in Poland have their chaplains and there are chapels in the majority of airports. It is so in Gdańsk, Kraków, Katowice, Poznań, Łódz and Wroclaw.
- Thanking you, priest-chaplain for some words to our readers, I also thank you for your friendliness to ‘Niedziela’ in Okęcie airport.
- ‘NIedziela’ is very popular among passengers who willingly take it on the board, and also the workers are willing to read or look through it. It is an important form of the ministration to a man.