By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 20, 2009
The new Interfaith Airport Chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is a refuge for anxious travelers and workers looking for some quiet time of reflection.
The chapel, which opened in July, is double the size of its predecessor and includes a new library and additional room for chaplains to talk with people.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated Mass Aug. 10 at the chapel, which overlooks the main terminal atrium.
“You are God’s angels,” he told the workers in the crowded room.
“God works through human and spiritual beings to bring peace and harmony and comfort,” he said.
The group, made up of former airline employees, law enforcement, and airport workers, asked for blessings on people traveling through the world’s busiest airport because of family death or illness, for people in need of peace and comfort, and asked for the intersession of the patron saint of aviation, Our Lady of Loreto.
“It is a wonderful resource,” said an airport worker of the chapel.
More than 1,000 people a month visit the chapel that is used by Christians, Jews, Muslims and members of other faiths.
The renovation project relocated the chapel to the second floor of the main terminal, around the corner from a USO area. The Catholic Foundation of North Georgia gave the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy $5,000 to pay for furnishings and equipment.
Rev. Chester Cook, the executive director of the chapel and a United Methodist minister, said the facility is open to all faiths and he hopes people of different denominations and faiths use it.
“It is a blessing and a gift,” he said.
He invited the archbishop to stop there whenever he is off to catch a plane.
“We hope you will feel welcome to celebrate Mass anytime you are at the airport,” he said.
For his part, the archbishop said he used to celebrate Mass at Chicago’s two airports while serving there.
The chapel dates to 1982 when Father Jack Druding of the Atlanta Archdiocese, along with a team of religious leaders, organized the chaplaincy. The chaplains minister to travelers in addition to the thousands of people who work at the facility.
The Catholic archdiocese is represented at the present time by permanent deacons Don Kelsey and Mike Landaiche. Officials hope to find a priest who can spend some time there too.