IT was a skydive with a difference that saw six priests swapping their clerical collars for jump chords at Birr airfield last Sunday.
Wittily titled ‘Leap of Faith’ the sixtet took to the skies in aid of Offaly Hospice.
Tullamore’s Fr Shane Crombie, Fr Pierre Pepper from Banagher, Fr Pat Gilbert from Birr. Fr Charlie Healy from Athlone and Fr Vincent Conaghton from Kilasummery in Leitrim all took part in the jump to raise funds for the charity.
Fr Pierre Pepper explained how the idea came about. “Mark Woods from the parish approached me on February 28 saying he had an unusual request. He said he wanted to organise a charity event with a difference. When he told me what it was I asked him was he serious and he said he was. I said I wouldn’t be doing it but I would give a hand.”
However, as the ball started to roll on the project and with five other priests on board, Fr Pepper found himself agreeing to take part. This was a big step for the Banagher priest who openly admits a fear of flying.
“If I can’t drive to it, I won’t go!” he said.
Nevertheless, putting his fears to the side, Fr Pepper joined the other priests much to the delight of the large crowd of spectators who gathered on Sunday to watch the event.
It was a day for both young and old as a number of family fun activities ran in conjunction with the jump. From face painting and a puppet show to food cooked on the site, a great day was had by all.
Hundreds turned up to support the jumpers who had hoped to raise €5,000 from the jump.
Now however it looks like when all the sponsorship is in, they will have far exceeded this figure.
Fr Pepper thanked everyone for their generosity and for giving their full support to the event.
Although it may have been Fr Pepper’s first ‘plunge’, for some of the other priests, this was just the latest in a catalogue of dare devil feats.
“I did a bungee jump before,” quipped Fr Shane Crombie.
He said he was delighted to take part. “It is nice to do something for the charity. There are a lot of people who benefit from it.”
Meanwhile Fr Kevin Heery had done a skydive before and Fr Pat Gilbert had done white water rafting in the past.
So from jumpers to observers the day proved one they will never forget while at the same time raising thousands for a worthy cause.