Friday, August 8, 2008

Announcements: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1. August 15 - Assumption: This Holy Day of obligation will be this Friday at 5:30 PM. I hope to see you all there.

2. Clarks Point Funeral: For Clarks Point Funeral Pictures, click here. Also, for pictures of Saint Theresa in King Salmon, go to the home page, mass schedule, and click on Saint Theresa King Salmon.

3. Nativity Scene Update: Please consider purchasing one of only five pieces of the nativity set. King Malchior and King Gaspar (120 each; Shepherd and Ox standing/sitting (115 each). Thank you for your generosity.

4. Baptism this Sunday: Katelynn will be baptized this Sunday. Reception and Potluck to follow. Please bring your favorite dish. If weather does not cooperate, the baptism will be in September or October.

5. Gospel: Jesus heals a little girl. As Christians, how do we heal others?

6. Subscribe to Announcements: I do not plan to put any big pictures in the announcements. So, it will not be cumbersome when the announcements are automatically sent to you. Please, put in your email address where it says subscribe, click on subscribe and then go to your email box and click on the link to confirm. Whenever I update the announcement, you will get a copy.

7. Plane: Saint Theresa in King Salmon has donated money for a new engine for the plane. I went to Anchorage last week and we have contacted several other possible donors. We still neen money to remove and replace the engine, new paint, and new propeller, which will be another 20,000 dollars.

8. Needed Volunteer: I have been working with a couple for the past year who decided not to get married in the Catholic Church. However, they want to use Holy Rosary for the wedding, to perform a non-catholic ceremony. I thought long and hard about this, under the many circumstances that surround this issue, I have decided to let them use our church for the marriage. It is this week, Saturday, August 16. I NEED SOMEONE to be available during the service to help out, lock up, etc. Please let me know if you are available.

9. Fr. Clemm Article About Fr. Kelly: Fr. Clem recently sent me a story he wrote about Fr. Kelly. It is very good. Please scroll down to read it.

Take care, God Bless, and have a great week...Fr. Scott

Story by Fr. Leroy Clementich, August 2008
Bush Pilot Captain

Actually, it was lousy day for flying in western Alaska on that weekend of March 23, 2002. For Catholics, it also happened to be the weekend of Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week.

The young pilots who fly the Piper Saratoga’s for Pen Air in Dillingham were sitting around the cargo hanger, playing cards, waiting for the weather to clear.

So, Kelley walks in, Father Jim Kelley “What’s up guys?” he says to anybody who’s listening. “Not a lot, Father, we’re just sorta hanging out here waiting for blue sky.”

“Well, listen, will one of you guys take that Mass kit over there and that bundle of palms and put them in the cargo bin of my plane, it’s the Cherokee over there? I’ll go over to ops and file a flight plan?” “Ok,” one guy says. “By the way, Father, where you heading?” “Togiak”, Kelley says, “We have Palm Sunday services over there tomorrow.” “Hey, you’re not really going out in that stuff, are you father? The weather’s below the minimums: It’s 800 and a thousand feet, worse on the west side of the range.” “Hey, no problem,” Kelley says. “Once I get over Tukalung Mountain, it’ll be a piece of cake.” “Well, you’re a braver guy than we are, Father. We’re gonna stick around here and sit it out.” “Ok”, Kelley says, see y’all later.”

Kelley zips up his down jacket and heads for the plane, brushes the snow off the wings, puts on his mittens, piles into the airplane and heads out.

Couple hour’s later, some Catholic folks in Togiak call Pen Air ops in Dillingham and ask if anybody’s seen Kelley. “No,” the dispatcher says, “all we know is that he left here about an hour ago, heading west.” “Well, we’re kinda worried because the weather over on this side of the mountain is really bad: high winds and blowing snow. Anyway, let us know if you hear anything, ok? Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and we need him bad.” “Ok,” the dispatcher says, “we’ll get back with you if we find out anything.”

By then, it was already early evening, and the weather was not getting any better. By morning’s light, everybody knew that something had gone wrong. Kelley never got to Togiak.

After the weather finally lifted, search pilots from Pen Air and other local pilots flew out over the mountains west of Dillingham to check out the situation.

The search did not take long: Up on the top of Tukalung, lay a crumpled-up, green and white PA 28-181, Kelly’s plane, the Dakota. No sign of life. It took nearly until noon until they finally got a chopper up there to bring the body home.

The news of Kelley’s death hit Bristol Bay and western Alaska pretty hard. Kelley was the pastor of some 25 or so little villages from Dillingham to Naknek to King Salmon and all the way out the chain to Dutch Harbor. He occasionally would boast that he was pastor of the largest parish in the world with over 139,000 square miles of territory.

He was one gutsy guy, Kelley. Weather never seemed to bother him much: With his twin Cessna, for instance, he’d fly the 500 mile, one-way trip to Dutch in weather even the “professional guys” wouldn’t touch. “God is my co-pilot”, he’d say. Hmmm!

Of course, there were also other villages closer in, like Chignik Bay, Perryville, Nelson Lagoon, Sand Point and Cold Bay and others that he could easily reach with his Cherokee, the Dakota. For Dutch, of course, he always used the twin.

Father Jim Kelley was both a dedicated pastor and a superb pilot. He learned how to fly as a kid in New Bedford, Massachusetts. After he was ordained, he joined the Navy and served as a chaplain, retiring with the rank of Captain.

Always on the hunt for new pastoral and flying challenges, he came to the Archdiocese of Anchorage and began serving the Church in the bush, the dozens of those little villages out on the Aleutian Chain.

Stories still abound, describing his dedication to these western-Alaska outposts. He would regularly fly into one small village, for instance, where only a single Catholic lived.

On many occasions, when weather was threatening, he would radio ahead to a contact person in the village and say: “Father Kelley here folks, I’m ten minutes out. Weather’s not looking good; be out on the end of the strip and we’ll have a communion service on the wing of the Cherokee.

And so it was. Kelley would come in, do a 360, land and hand his Mass kit out to the closest person, get out and spread a white corporal on the wing and begin: “Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be…This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper…. The Body of Christ” “Amen.” Then there’d be a short thanksgiving; a hug all around and Kelley would head out for the next village just ahead of the weather.

Well, that’s the story of “The Captain”, the priest-pilot, whatever; they both meant the same thing to him. It was all about flying out to “do liturgy.”

In the weeks and months after Father Kelley’s death, I would often fly the route from Dillingham to Togiak with those young Pen Air pilots. Often, as we'd fly over Tukalung Mountain, we’d slow the plane down to minimum airspeed, do a 360 and say a prayer for “The Captain.”

As I reflect on it, my intuition tells me that even after six years have gone by, a certain sacredness, a grace, still clings to that rocky crest over which a dedicated priest-pilot tried to fly so that some Catholic folks in Togiak could celebrate Palm Sunday.

On one occasion afterwards, a young pilot, flying with me over Tukalung, said. “You know, Father, if he had not tried to make that turn and if he’d flown a couple hundred feet higher, he would easily have made it. “That close? I asked. “Yup”, he said. “Take another swing around the summit”, I say. “I want to take a closer look.” The light wasn’t very good, but I’m pretty sure I could see some palms still scattered and lying there in the brush. Together, the pilot and I say “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.” We both say, “Amen.”

LeRoy E. Clementich C.S.C.

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