Six priests, three of them with strong Longford connections, have raised over €18,000 for Offaly hospice, far exceeding the €5,000 they hoped to reach – by taking part in a tandem sky dive.
The event, which garnered national attention in the press saw the priests jump from a plane 10,000 feet in the air in front of a crowd of over 1,000 well wishers and spectators at Birr Airfield.
Dubbed a ‘leap of faith,’ the event was truly that for Fr Pierre Pepper, the former Parish Priest in Curry, who has a strong phobia of planes.
“People were wondering would I jump-off on the ground or up in the sky and to be honest my fear of planes made it a bit easier to jump out of the thing. Even though I was 10,000 feet up in the sky all I wanted to do was get out of the plane,” Fr Pepper told the Leader this week.
Asked what he was thinking as he gravitated through the air at speeds of 200 kilometres an hour, the current Chairman of Young Grattan GAA said his mind was completely blank and his eyes wide shut. However, Fr Pepper said he would do it all again – but this time in private.
“A few friends of mine from Longford have already been onto me and we’re looking at doing it again. I think I would enjoy the whole thing a lot more a second time,” Fr Pepper, who is now based in Banagher in Offaly, remarked.
Two other Longford priests, Fr Vincent Connaugton from Newtowncashel and Fr Charlie Healy from Dromard also took part in the sky-dive. “We had hoped to reach €5,000 but I think the novelty factors of six sky-diving priests just grabbed people’s imagination. We thought it would make the local papers but we were on RTÉ Radio One and in the Times and the Irish Independent as well,” Fr Pepper said.
It now looks likely that the total amount reached will exceed €20,000. “When you add all the money raised you have to say the whole thing was definitely worth it. Still though, I’m glad I’m this side of it,” he laughed.