Priest-pilot leads flight squadron in charitable “fly-a-thon”

Adelaide, Australia, May 4, 2008 / 04:46 pm (CNA) .- A flying priest is leading a squadron of 15 pilots in a 4,600-mile flight around Australia to raise funds for World Youth Day pilgrims and to raise awareness about the plight of East Timor.

According to the Southern Cross newspaper, Father John Fowles’ “fly-a-thon” is expected to raise almost $500,000 through donations and sales of a CD titled “Earth Angels Care.”  Proceeds will be used to send 10 young East Timorese pilgrims to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, while the rest of the donations will go towards projects in East Timor, with orphanages being a priority.

“To these Timorese, the possibility of sharing such a day with the youth of the world is only a dream,” Father Fowles told The Southern Cross. “Fly Away to Heaven hopes to make this dream a reality.

“We are quite complacent in this country. We are not short of anything. I’ve always had that missionary zeal to do something for those less fortunate than ourselves.”

Father Fowles said that raising “awareness” was more important than raising money.  He said he hoped the flight will inspire others to “take up the challenge for the poor and needy.”

The priest will circumnavigate Australia in a Jabiru J400 aircraft named “Angel Wings.”  He built the plane himself from a kit bought with the gift of a parishioner.

The pilots on the trip, which will last from May 1 to June 3, come from various backgrounds.  Not all are Catholics.

“Flying around Australia is something many people want to do,” Father Fowles said.

“These pilots are doing it for something worthwhile and that appeals to them. We will enjoy the flight, there’s no doubt about that, but it will be tiring.”