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Late Flight 93 chapel founder was 'joyful that we've done so much'

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:05 a.m.
Bishop Alphonse Mascherino, founder of the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, says his final mass Sunday, January 20, 2013, at the chapel near Shanksville. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Bishop Alphonse Mascherino has died, leaving behind the Somerset County chapel he founded to honor the passengers of United Flight 93, which crashed in a nearby field on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mascherino, 69, who recently entered hospice care, died on Friday.

He held his final service in the tiny, nondenominational country chapel on Jan. 20, announcing that he was suffering from cancer.

“I'm joyful that we've done so much,” Mascherino said after the service.

Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville when passengers and crew attempted to overtake four terrorists who had hijacked the airplane. All 40 passengers and crew members died.

In 2002, Mascherino decided to honor their memory by purchasing and overseeing the renovation of the former Mizpah Lutheran Church.

Last month, Mascherino announced that the chapel's future will be in the hands of Archbishop Ramzi Musallam of the Catholic Church of the East.

“I was the last person to speak with him,” Musallam said on Monday.

“I gave him final prayers. He trusted in me to continue his work. I thank God for his trust and his love as a brother,” he said.

“He asked for me to keep the dream, to keep those heroes here on the mountain alive,” Musallam said.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Saturday in the chapel, Musallam said.

In an email last month, Mascherino told a reporter he suspected his time was limited, even as he maintained his wry sense of humor.

“I had a bit of a Christmas party, just a few people I could call at the last minute,” he said.

“They didn't know it, but secretly in my heart, I viewed it as my wake, since I wouldn't be able to enjoy my wake if there is one,” he wrote.

“It would have been funny to ... get their candid reflections,” he wrote.

“It's been a great ride, and now the journey comes to an end,” Mascherino concluded.

Greensburg resident Carol Love said she plans to continue training volunteers to provide tours of the chapel.

A recent training session attracted eight volunteers.

“There was a bonus those eight got that no one else will get. After spending some time in the chapel, they followed my husband and me to hospice, and they met Father Al,” she said.

Unable to speak, he penned a message to the volunteers.

“He wrote, ‘This is the future of the chapel,' ” Love said.

In 2003, then-Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Joseph Adamec called Mascherino's work “commendable,” but said it was incompatible with the Roman Catholic Church, which had ordained him as a priest.

Mascherino became a bishop on Sept. 27, 2009, in the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, Utrecht Succession, Archdiocese of California, which does not recognize the authority of the pope.

Mascherino's funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Miller Funeral Home and Crematory in Somerset.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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