Archbishop’s Spirit Flight in New Orleans compares to St. Rosalia in Palermo


On Good Friday 2020 The Big Easy Wing Unit of the Commemorative Air Force arranged to take New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Rabi Alexis Erheim on Spirit Flights to bless New Orleans from a Pt-17 Stearman bi-plane.

Archbishop Aymond gives a “Thumbs Up” before take off.

The Archbishop’s flight was at 10:00am followed by Rabi Alexis Erdheim’s flight at noon. The Archbishop had recovered from the Corona Virus just days before.

Preparing for takeoff.

The Big Easy Wing limited the flight crew team, pilots, and photographers to ten people to maintain social distancing in the hanger.

The pilots and flight crew of the Big Easy Wing with Archbishop Aymond. The chapter is led by David Capo on the far left. Left to Right David Capo, Robert Claypool, Harold Buchler,
Jeff Segner behind Archbishop’s hand, Archbishop Aymond, Jim Shaw behind Jim Helms hand, Jim Helms, Terry Clausing Pilots Jim Helms and Jim Shaw are second and third from the right.

New Orleans is 35% Catholic with over 100 parishes and churches. During the period of the Corona Virus-19 pandemic social distancing is being practiced and thus the churches are closed.

Pilot Jim Helms installed a Go-pro to video the flight as Archbishop Aymond blessed the city with Holy Water from the River Jordon, where Jesus Christ was baptized.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond blessing New Orleans from a PT-17 Stearman on Good Friday.

The Archbishop prayed for all government leaders, first responders, and care givers.

Pilots Jim Shaw and Jim Helms (on ground) with Archbishop Aymond.

Following the Archbishop’s flight, Rabi Alex Erdheim did a spiritual flight to bless New Orleans. The Big Easy Wing is a Unit of the Commemorative Air Force and was founded in 2017. The CAF was founded in the 1950 and has over 150 planes in its flying museum.

The Big Easy Wing is part of the Commemorative Air Force.

The event was arranged by BEW Commander David Capo who titled the concept “Spirit Flights” and stated: “People could just come out of their houses and get a blessing from the air.”

New Orleans’ high percent of Catholics is due to several reasons. One is the 1885-1915 migration of over 60,000 Sicilians to work on the river plantations, the shipping docks at the port of New Orleans, and build the railroads of the south.

Sicilians are a spiritual group known for the annual celebrations around St. Joseph’s Day to whom they prayed to end a multi-year draught. The tradition is marked in New Orleans with altars to feed the poor and celebrations of thanks for the blessing Sicilians enjoy.

St. Rosalia  is the patron saint of Palermo in Italy, and three towns in  Venezuela. She is especially important internationally as a saint invoked in times of plague. Today she is being invoked by the citizens of Palermo to protect the city from Covid-19.

In 1624, a plague beset Palermo. During this hardship Saint Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman, then to a hunter, to whom she indicated where her remains were to be found. She ordered him to bring her bones to Palermo and have them carried in procession through the city. An annual procession for St. Rosalia is held in Kenner Louisiana, a neighboring town of New Orleans on her July 14th Feast Day.

St. Rosalia in Palermo

The hunter climbed the mountain and found her bones in the cave as described. He did what she had asked in the apparition. After her remains were carried around the city three times, the plague ceased. After this Saint Rosalia was venerated as the patron saint of Palermo, and a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered

Saint Expeditus. Oil painting in Palermo

There is a Statue of St. Expediate in Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church in New Orleans. the Church was built in 1827 for victims of Yellow Fever. His feast day in April 19th.

Saint Expeditus is seen as a saint capable to expedite and achieve any secular end, especially success in trade, in examinations, and in lawsuits. Of the four scenes on the sides of the painting in Palermo, the upper left one shows a sick-room, with a patient in bed, very ill, three bystanders making gestures of despair, and a statue of Saint Expeditus in a wall-shrine. The upper right one shows a sick-room with a patient in bed, a physician taking the patient’s pulse, four bystanders in prayer, and a wall-shrine bearing a figure of Saint Expeditus. 

Commemorative Air Force Videos

The Big Easy Wing invited AWE.News exclusively to be inside the hanger due to a limit of 10 individuals. Joey Harmon and Charles Marsala of AWE News filmed and posted on their You Tube Channel and photographed the event. AWE News was created to report on people and organizations doing “Awesome” such as honoring veterans. Previously AWE News has done video stories on other planes of the Commemorative Air Force including the C-47 “That’s All Brother” and the B-29 “Fifi.

The Commemorative Air Force is a flying museum of over 150 World War II planes with units in many states. Frequently the CAF supplies the planes for vintage air shows.


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