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January 20, 2013

Bishop’s ministry ends at chapel: Ailing Mascherino celebrates last service

SHANKSVILLE — Surrounded by family and friends, and against the backdrop of praise for Jesus Christ, Bishop Alphonse Mascherino celebrated his last service on Sunday.

Mascherino, 79, who suffers from a terminal form of cancer, gave his last service at the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, which he founded near Shanksville in November 2001.

The chapel is located about three miles from the crash site.

It was an emotional farewell for the former Roman Catholic priest who turned an old seed warehouse into a nondenominational chapel. It is visited annually by thousands who pay homage to the victims of United Airlines Flight 93.

About 50 people attended the final service offered by a frail bishop. His presence alone was enough to comfort the faithful who joined in singing traditional hymns.

With a tracheal tube inserted to help him breathe, the bishop offered few words but many unspoken prayers.

Mascherino’s nephew, Matthew Hoopes, of Delaware, helped him through the service. Jim Morris, a chapel board member, read a statement from the bishop.  

“Today, I am resigning the office of bishop and am resigning from the Catholic Church of the East,” Morris read. “I have completed an agreement with Archbishop Ramzi Musallam, Catholic Church of the East, to transfer ownership of Flight 93 Memorial Chapel and properties,” Morris said.

Mascherino served as priest in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese for 31 years.

Archbishop Musallam and the Catholic Church of the East will be sole owners of all properties, he said.

The archbishop, who was unable to attend the service, issued a statement, which Morris read.

“My avowed commitment is to continue the mission of the chapel,” the statement said. “To the honor and glory of God and to the memory of the 40 heroes of Flight 93 and all other innocents who perished Sept. 11, 2001.”

Mascherino will be missed.

“He has dedicated the last 11 years of his life to honoring the heroes of Flight 93,” said Morris’s wife, Pat, retired UAL flight attendant and member of the design team for the Flight 93 Crew Monument.

“He has been such an inspiration to all of us,” she said, her voice strained with emotion.

“I just can’t believe this is the last sermon,” she said. “I just pray his legacy will go on.”

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