Dear Friends and Colleagues,
What a tremendous 3 years we’ve got through!
Yes, these 3 years as President of the IACAC (and 4 before that as Vice-President including to as Host chaplain) will remain in my heart as a very memorable time and the honor of my life!
Just a few weeks after I took office, after the Melbourne Conference in October 2019, the COVID19 pandemic started and soon became a global crisis. Lockdowns were enforced on the population of most countries; air traffic collapsed, which forced the aviation industry to shut down most of its activities and airports, closed most of their terminals. Many of us were confined in our homes for several weeks and sometimes months. During all that time my question was “what can I do for our members and fellow airport chaplains?” With the Board as well as the involvement of several members from different parts of the world we organized various online sessions to share our experiences, hope and fears as well as, for the first time, an online conference. Through these means we kept in touch and even got closer to one another and develop our network reaching to some of you who don’t usually have the opportunity to attend our annual conferences. I also tried to give to this monthly letter a reflective and pastoral tone, which, I hope, has brought some support to those who needed it.
Like our societies around the globe our association has been on a crisis mode for most of these past 3 years and it’s been my privilege to serve in those circumstances. Actually, isn’t crisis management at the core of our calling and ministry as airport chaplains? This is what I discovered when, just a few weeks after I joined airport chaplaincy, I was invited to take part of a life-size drill of a crash. Although this was just a drill with airport staff playing the role of passengers and relatives, it helped me understand our role in those dramatic situations. A few months later was the Atlanta Conference where we were introduced to the crisis management organization for Delta. The person who was presenting to us Delta Care as they call it first asked us how many of us had been involved in a major aircraft crisis. More than half of us raised their hands and her spontaneous reaction was “wow, I’ve never seen an such an experienced audience”.
These experiences and many other encounters, trainings, presentations in our conferences and conversations with several of you inspired me to consider crisis management as the priority in my job as an airport chaplain. As airport chaplains, I believe, we need to be willing to go to the front, whatever the circumstances. Those who don’t feel like they would be able to deal with difficult and sometimes dramatic situations might need to consider applying for another position less exposed to the suffering and anguish of those we are called to help.
Of course, none of us are Superman or Superwoman. We also need to be humble and aware of our limitations. But willingness to go forward and face the situation is fundamental.
Like all of you, I’ve come through many crisis situations with passengers and staff, individual or collective, “small” (no crisis is ever small when you’re facing it!) ones and major ones. The awareness that crisis can happen any time and readiness to face it every day and at any moment is a strength we have And, I believe, it has been particularly helpful during this much longer crisis. Personally, I have found my strength and inspiration to lead our association these past years in the conversations, sharing our experiences of facing all sorts of situations, trying to be of comfort for lost souls and trying to find solutions in various difficult situations and circumstances and, many times, succeeding to bring some comfort and help. What I’m trying to say here is that the strength of an organization such as ours does not reside so much on the strength of its leadership. Rather, the strength of its leadership resides on the inspiration that is found in the encounter with each member and through the shared and collective experience of our global fellowship.
Amongst those who made a tremendous impact on me those past years, one whom has inspired me the most since I met him in 2018 in Charlotte is Martyn Scrimshaw, head of the chaplaincy in Melbourne. His kindness, his availability, his ability to face tremendously difficult and painful situations, his willingness to fight the right and good fight amongst many other qualities motivated me and contributed to renew my strength when I needed it. I’m not writing this to be nice to my successor and even less to embarrass him (although I suspect he will be). I’m writing this to share with you my enthusiasm, as I will pass him the torch when he takes over the presidency of our association. I am very confident that Martyn, Liz Hughes, our incoming Vice-President and the entire Board will lead us in promising directions in the post covid era of the global aviation industry and airports. I assure them of my faithful support and prayer and invite you to do the same!
Pierre de Mareuil (Paris CDG)