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Offaly priests set for leap of faith

Story by Laura Ryder

Friday, 6th April, 2012 2:30pm

Offaly priests set for leap of faith

Five priests will take a leap of faith next month when they complete a skydive for Offaly Hospice.

Five priests are set to take a leap of faith next month, as they take part in a parachute jump in Birr to raise money for Offaly Hospice. Organiser Fr Pierre Pepper in Banagher told the Offaly Independent this week he's still working up the courage to take part along with Fr Pat Gilbert from Birr, Fr Shane Crombie from Tullamore, Fr Charlie Healy from Athlone and Fr Kevin Heery from Navan.

Fr Pierre said Banagher man Mark Woods came to him with the idea initially, and after ascertaining he wasn't joking he committed to the project.

However one thing is holding Fr Pierre back from saying he'll definitely do the skydive himself - a strong aversion to flying. "I had to fly once and it was the worst experience of my life," Fr Pierre said.

The flight in question was to Malta and happened a decade ago. Back then Fr Pierre vowed never to get into a plane again, but he's hoping to eat his words and not only get into a plane again but jump out of it too. "I said I'd put in the application form and see if I can work up to it," he said this week. "I'd like to do it."

Fr Pierre said there's "a bit of an adrenalin junkie" in the four other priests taking part in the sponsored jump, with most having some form of extreme adventure under their belt already.

Fr Pat Gilbert from Birr is on holidays this week and next and so wasn't available to comment on his feelings. Fr Shane Crombie from Tullamore told the Offaly Independent he's really looking forward to the big day however.

"Fr Pierre asked me if I'd be interested and I said 'No problem at all'," he said. "It should be good fun." Fr Shane is one of the adrenalin junkies Fr Pierre referred to. While he hasn't done a parachute jump, he said he has done some paragliding over the past few years and did a bungee jump in New Zealand in 2007 while visiting his brother who lived there at the time.

The jump is for Offaly Hospice, and sponsorship cards for the cause are expected to surface next week.

The jump itself will take place on May 20 at Birr Airfield, facilitated by Sky Ireland. Fr Pierre said the group of priests are hoping to raise something in the region of €5,000 for Offaly Hospice from the jump. Donations can be given via sponsorship cards that will be available shortly, local priests or direct to Fr Pierre at Banagher Parochial House.

Meanwhile Fr Shane has said that he might even do another parachute jump for a good cause if this ones goes smoothly. "If it goes well I won't say I'll make it a habit but I might do another one," he said.

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