Catholic priest takes to skies to sprinkle holy water, bless Mississippi city

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday afternoon, the city of Vicksburg received a blessing from above.

About 2:30 pm. Thursday, the Rev. Rusty Vincent, pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church, took to the skies in an open seat biplane piloted by Dan Fordice to spread holy water over the city in a blessing to help the city.

Vincent said he got the idea from parishioner Charles Hahn, who read about some priests in the north who flew over cities and prayed for God’s blessing on the community.

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“He thought it was a good idea, he recommended it to me, and I thought it was a good idea, too.

“I’ll say a prayer, a blessing over the city, and then I’ll pour some holy water over the city as a blessing over it, and say a prayer for God’s blessing over the city in defense of the virus and protection and guidance over everyone in the city,” Vincent said.

Vincent and Fordice flew from the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in a twin-seat WACO biplane owned by the Southern Heritage Air Foundation. The holy water was sprinkled using a funnel and a long plastic tube.

Hahn said he got the idea for the flyover after reading an article in the Knights of Columbus publication “Knightline.”

According to the article, the Rev. Brian Gannon, the pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Bridgeport, Conn., and an associate pastor on March 24 flew over their city. During the flight, the priests recited the rosary, the Memorare to the Blessed Mother and prayed for protection against the virus.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Hahn said. “I sent an email to Dan and Father Rusty, and the next day, Dan said, ‘I’m up for it.’ When I got Father Rusty, he said, ‘I’m willing.’

“The next thing was finding the date, and this (Thursday) turned out to be the best date.”

Southern Heritage Air Foundation president Patty Mekus notified several St. Paul parishioners about the flyover, which produced some immediate responses after people saw the plane.

“Patty, just saw the plane!!” Vicksburg resident Cathy Blanche texted Mekus, who watched Fordice and Vincent take off.

“Tell Dan thank you for doing this for our city. I had such a feeling of calmness as I watched it fly over. Father Rusty shows such loving feelings for his community.

“(I) hope God hears our prayers and helps us keep each other safe and well,” Blanche wrote.

“We spotted Father Rusty!! So cool! Thanks to all involved!!” Laura Blackledge Kidder wrote.