Melbourne IACAC Annual Conference 2019

Those chaplains who were able to travel to Melbbourne for the annual IACAC conference found themselves challenged to think about diversity in our world and how it is reflected in our airports. There was much to consider and reflect upon as well as renew old friendships and make new ones. Conference presentations and photos have been uploaded to the Members Section of the website and are available for members to access. David Gonzalez, Protestant chaplain at Paris-Orly airport (ORY) sent the following reflection on a workshop held at the conference:

How to recharge your batteries in an airport when you work there? This was the question asked at one of the workshops during the Melbourne Conference. How do you renew your spiritual strength? One of the chaplains does Yoga, another one takes time to contemplate the planes taking off in sundown.

As a protestant chaplain who started his ministry in civil aviation just a few months ago I “confessed” during that workshop that the only thing I found to refuel in Paris-Orly Airport was assisting to the Roman Catholic Mass. I also celebrate a 30 minutes protestant service on Mondays and Thursdays at 12:30 but one Monday a few weeks ago I decided instead to remain seating in prayer for the two hours of lunch break with those who happened to come to the airport chapel to pray. It was a great time of personal renewal and… of new encounters! This was a direct fruit from the workshop on contemplative meditation that was offered during the Conference.”

Delgates were also asked to reflect on membership of IACAC and on the list of competencies that could be desirable for airport chaplains. Deacon George Szalony from Charlotte has sent us a thought provoking article and invites all chaplains to make comment on his suggestions. The IACAC Board will be interested to hear what you think. Please send us your comments for consideration:

Who are you?

About a month before the Melbourne Conference I was reviewing an agreement that would ask our team to provide emotional and spiritual care at CLT for 10 years. Attached was a “Bill of Particulars” outlining what was expected of us that had one requirement added by the Airport Attorney, the Director has to be certified by a credible group as an airport chaplain.
My certification as an Airport Chaplain should have been from the International Association of Civil Airport Chaplains.
How do we prevent membership loss and provide a reason for people to join IACAC? IACAC has to provide more than networking and fellowship. As members, we have to be able to help grow airport chaplaincy in new airports as well as help those existing chaplaincies that are having issues.
My desire to lobby for certification was caused by a meeting with the chief operating officer of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. In our meeting the COO said “Tell me about yourself and your group”. Of course what he was asking was how were we going to improve the passenger experience within the airport and how could we support the daily productivity of airport employees. He already knew I was religious and therefore had some sort of training and education, but he wanted to be assured of our team’s particular training and experience.
My response was to share that our volunteer team helped passengers and employees who were experiencing an emotional situation and needed support to continue their journey or finish their work day. Part of my response was to share that although each team member has a relationship with God, Yahweh, Allah or a higher power in their lives, we respected every person we encounter whether they are religious, spiritual or “nones”. My final response was to share that I was “certified” by the United States of Catholic Bishops as an Airport Chaplain and what those requirements were.
As a group we have a wealth of experience and knowledge we need to make available to all members of the IACAC. The advent of regional groups and the member only section of the website is proof that we can support and help each other. Now that we have the list of “chaplain competencies” I think we could have a certification program in place within a year. I would like to suggest we use e-mail to share thoughts and ideas about IACAC providing a certification to members as “Airport Chaplains”. Our target should be September 2020. I am willing to volunteer to be the central collection point and source of information sharing. We can also put responses on the “members only” section of the IACAC web site.

What do you think?

George Szalony
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Charlotte, NC USA