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Getting where we need to go

Last week a family celebration of my mother's 90th birthday took me south. A power outage affecting the Whitehorse airport slowed the Jazz morning departure for Vancouver. Strong winds out of the south made our plane even later.

Last week a family celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday took me south. A power outage affecting the Whitehorse airport slowed the Jazz morning departure for Vancouver. Strong winds out of the south made our plane even later.

By the time I made my way to the United Airlines counter on the international side of the YVR terminal the agent had already changed my flight to a later connection for Kansas City. My new route flew me east to Chicago, Illinois then back west to Missouri. With a ‘hurry-through’ security sticker on my boarding pass they impressed on me the need to step on it.

Gearing up for the Olympics meant that I had no wait clearing US Customs or security for the second time that day. The sticker sped me along as well. Customs didn’t ask at all about the declared moose and caribou sausage heading south with me. I made to my departure gate with time to spare. This was not the case four hours later when I stepped from the Boeing 757 onto the gangway at O’Hare International in Chicago.

Ten blue monitors all jammed with the needed information on the 180 some flights leaving in the next two plus hours awaited connecting passengers like me. O’Hare with nearly 70 million passengers a year passing through it holds the rank of second busiest airport in the world. It was only recently dethroned by the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

A brisk walk along moving sidewalks in one concourse then down under a plane taxiway in a wildly neon-lit passage before rising up to another concourse brought me to my gate with only minutes to spare. Once on United Flight 275 and bound for Kansas City I found an audio channel that allows passengers to listen in on the cockpit communications with ground and air traffic controllers. It and watching the cloudscapes below was far more interesting than the sitcom alternative offered for our in-flight diversion.

Two hours later I arrived at Kansas City. A well organized, regulated system from ticket agents, ground crew, security and customs officials, pilots, flight attendants, maintenance, baggage handlers, air controllers and a host of other unseen people all performing their tasks well got me to where I needed to go. The threat and rare reality of an air disaster though, makes organizational complacency or tolerance of less than due diligence always dangerous.

Last Monday Liam, my son, down from Montreal, his cousin Megan from New York both there for their grandmother’s celebration along my sister Pat and I visited the Father John Hix Centre. Named for our late uncle, its slogan is “Helping everyday people everyday.” The centre carries on his work with the primarily the Latin American community in northeast Kansas City. A food bank, clothing depot and immigrant support services anchored their program to the reality of the local community.

His memory and the work of staff and volunteers there and in countless other church based initiatives across the continent were overshadowed on that day by the news out of the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware. Sexual abuse proceedings there were delayed by the diocese filing for bankruptcy protection.

In an Associated Press release Thomas Neuberger, a lawyer representing 88 alleged victims called this a “sad chapter in the diocese’s decades long ‘cover-up’ of these despicable crimes, to maintain the secrecy surrounding its responsibility and complicity in the sexual abuse of hundreds of Catholic children.”

Several other US dioceses including Fairbanks, Alaska, have been forced to seek bankruptcy protection for sexual abuse scandals as well. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in its annual report earlier this year that the church there has paid out over $2.6 billion in settlements and related expenses on such cases since 1950.

Canada’s Catholic Bishops are holding their annual meeting in Cornwall, Ontario, this week under the shadow of the arrest of Nova Scotian Bishop Raymond Lahey for possessing and importing child pornography. This and other events like those in the United States taint the daily efforts at social action and justice of a myriad of committed Catholics and Christians. But as the author, Michael Coren, notes in a National Post blog: “What Bishop Raymond Lahey is accused of doing is unspeakably awful, but an abuser no more represents the Church than a criminal politician represents democracy.”

Maybe institutions like the Roman Catholic Church that say that they can help us to get where we need to go spiritually, need to make people their priority rather than protecting dated institutional perspectives and practices.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Namaste notes

Saturday, October 24 - World Development Information Day coincides with United Nations Day to stress the central role of development in the work of the United Nations.

Sunday, October 25 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark 10: 46-52.

Sunday, October 25 - Reformation Day commemorates the birth of Protestantism when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the All Saints’ Church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.

Wednesday, October 28 - Soviet Union leader Khrushchev and US President Kennedy peacefully negotiate an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.