The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 16, 2013

Shanksville chapel founder dies of cancer

Patrick Buchnowski

SOMERSET — The Rev. Alphonse Mascherino will be granted his dying wish: He will be buried as a Roman Catholic.

Mascherino, founder of the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel near Shanksville, died at 2:50 p.m. Friday at In Touch Hospice in Somerset. He suffered from throat cancer.

He was 69.

Mascherino left the Roman Catholic Church and, until recently, was bishop in the Catholic Church of the East.

He resigned last month as head of the chapel and as bishop.

Mascherino first needed to take “certain steps” to be reconciled to the church, said Tony DeGol, spokesman for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

“The steps that were taken were satisfactory in the bishop’s eyes to permit a Catholic funeral Mass,” DeGol said.

Viewing will be 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Miller Funeral Home and Crematory in Somerset.

A Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Somerset. A memorial Mass will be held

2 p.m. Saturday at the Flight 93 Chapel.

Mascherino will be buried in his hometown of Downingtown in Chester County.

Mascherino founded the memorial chapel two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was an unassigned priest at the time.

He turned a small dilapidated building into a place to honor the 40 passengers and crew who died when the airliner was hijacked by Islamic terrorists and crashed in an abandoned strip mine.

“It’s important to keep their memories alive,” Mascherino said in a 2007 interview with The Tribune-Democrat. “The voice of Flight 93 will never be silenced.”

His brother, James Mascherino, and others were with him when he died.

“It was tough on everybody to watch him suffer,” James Mascherino said.

“We were fortunate to be there. It was very quick.”

It was his brother’s wish to be reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church, he said.

“It brings some closure,” he said.

Friends say the man they’ve known as Father Al touched many lives.

Don and Kay Kemp, operators of Somerset Galleries, cared for Mascherino for several months before he was taken to hospice.

People from around the country and overseas flooded their shop on Saturday with telephone calls.

“We have three phones going,” Kay Kemp said. “I even got a call from Germany. She calls every week to check on him.”

James Mascherino said his brother wrote these words and pinned them to a chair in his hospice room: “All is well with my soul.”

“He had a good life,” his brother said. “He was a wonderful person.”

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