By Emilie Lynch Daily American
A supportive crowd packed the Flight 93 Chapel Sunday, to be a part of Bishop Alphonse Mascherino’s last service for the chapel.
Mascherino, along with the help of many with interest in the chapel, announced that Archbishop Ramzi Musallam of the Catholic Church of the East purchased the Memorial Chapel from Mascherino with plans to preserve and protect its mission.
In a statement from Musallam, he stated, “The chapel is to remain available to church groups and religious groups of diverse denominations and proclaim patriotism and faith.”
Mascherino is retiring as director of the Flight 93 Chapel because of diminishing health. Cancer has left Mascherino with little use of his vocal chords.
“Today I am resigning the office of bishop and am resigning from the Catholic Church of the East in order to make possible a reclamation for spiritual grievances,” he said.
Musallam ordained Mascherino as a Roman Catholic priest. When the tragic events of September 11, 2001 occurred near Shanksville, Mascherino wanted the site to become a nondenominational church dedicated to those who died and their families as well as others who visit the crash site.
Archbishop Ramzi Musallam of the Catholic Church of the East was designated to conduct Sunday’s service with Mascherino, but was unable to attend because he was stranded in Florida. Mascherino’s nephew, Matt Hoopes took Musallam’s place to speak on Mascherino’s behalf.
“I was nervous to do it. I get pretty emotional,” said Hoopes.
Many in attendance shared in his emotions and offered hugs and support to Mascherino. Several provided musical talents throughout the service.
Some who attended were members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association and visit the chapel every year to honor those who died on 9/11. Others were family and friends of Mascherino, including Vicki Reese.
“Father Al is a good friend. He has touched my life and many others, especially when times were hard. The chapel has come a long way. There have been a lot of contributors, but it took that leader. That was Father Al,” said Reese.
Another piece of good news that came with the announcement is Musallam’s plan to follow through with Mascherino’s visions for a Flight 93 Chapel Memorial Museum that were announced in September 2012.
In his statement Musallam said, “I am commencing immediately the conversion of the chapel guest house as the first phase of the Flight 93 Chapel Memorial Museum and the construction of the memorials planned by Bishop Mascherino.”
It is expected that the museum will be dedicated on the anniversary of September 11, 2013.