At many big airports in the USA, fliers seeking spiritual solace this
religious season don’t have to go it alone.
Though not widely known, about three dozen U.S. airports — including most
of the big ones — have chapels or chaplains.
“So many people using our airports this time of year don’t realize that
there are chapels and chaplaincies readily available for them,” says Rev.
John Jamnicky. He was Chicago O’Hare’s chaplain for 20 years and now
oversees travel chapels for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Traveler Chris Kepler, technology director for software provider SAS
Institute, says he often visits a Dallas/Fort Worth chapel during layovers
on monthly Latin American trips.
“I don’t stay there long, but I like to stop by from time to time, sit in
the peace and quiet, meditate, pray and then move on,” says Kepler, of
Chapels have mostly been organized by Catholics and Protestants but welcome
people of all faiths. New York John F. Kennedy has the country’s only
airport synagogue. O’Hare’s chapel has services for Muslims. Chaplains say
they’re not there to convert.
Travel chaplains may be most visible at times of crisis, such as a plane
crash. But normally they tend to everyday issues: Reassuring a nervous
flier; comforting a grieving widow; praying for a family sending their son
to Iraq, or helping a traveler clear security with an urn filled with a
loved one’s ashes.
And there’s the occasional wedding — or marriage intervention. Chaplain
Brett Jones at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport recalls last year
helping a woman who changed her mind after throwing her husband out. Jones
tracked down the husband, who was connecting flights at Bush, to let him
know that his wife would take him back.
Travel chaplains serve a mix of travelers and airport and airline employees