Michael G. Zaniolo, STL
Elected President of the National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains
A native of Chicago, Fr. Michael was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1988. He holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology degree and is a Certified Airport Chaplain. He was an electrical engineer before entering the seminary. His engineering background gives him an instant rapport with many airport and airlines workers. Modern technology is being incorporated into just about everything in an airport and airplanes. "This is an exciting time to be an airport chaplain," he said, noting that many people are also fearful about the future of the airline industry.
The new NCCAC board members are Fathers Jack Fitzgerald (PIT), Glenn O'Connor (IND), Jim Devine (JFK), Deacon Dennis Jordan (MIA), Dr. Rick Hanners (CLE), and Mr. Charles Barnes SJ (SEA). Fr. John Jamnicky, coordinator of Human Mobility Apostolates for the USCCB is a board member and the founding president. His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago is the NCCAC Episcopal Liaison.
There are currently some 53 Catholic airport chaplains working in 30 airports around the nation. "Our plans include fund raising for the purpose of training and certifying priests, deacons and lay airport chaplains," Fr. Zaniolo said in his inaugural address.
Airport chaplains duties vary from airport to airport. Chicago has one full-time chaplain and several priests available to hear confessions and celebrate the Eucharist, as well as three deacons and several lay volunteers who assist at the ten weekend Masses. "I hear confessions every day, said Fr. Zaniolo. "With 50,000 airport employees and tens of thousands of travelers passing through daily, the airport is fertile ground for ministry to anyone who needs to talk about what is going on in their lives."
Most airport chapels are interfaith and ecumenical, providing chaplains and services for Protestants, Jews, Muslims, as well as a peaceful and prayerful space for people who practice any faith or religion.