Franciscan Joy: Planes Keep His Eyes Heavenward

Friar Voices


I have always been interested in airplanes. Even today when one flies over, I have to look up.

When I was a kid in grade school in Louisville during the Second World War, certain cereal boxes would have paper airplanes in them. We would cut them out, put a penny in the nose for weight and sail them off the front porch. They flew surprisingly well. Also in those days you could buy a small balsa wood airplane kit for a quarter. I would save my pennies and head to the hobby shop.

During my high school days at St. Francis Seminary in Cincinnati there was no time or place to pursue my hobby. But when I got to Duns Scotus College in Michigan, I took it up again by carving solid models out of any kind of wood I could find. Later in Oldenburg while studying Theology and preparing for ordination, I built a few free-flight models which we launched from the ball field and seldom got back. I was in charge of the servers of the parish at the time and they would go look for them. (They did find two of them.)

It wasn’t until I was stationed back at the Seminary in Cincinnati that I got interested in radio controlled planes. One afternoon in early May when I was working outside, a gentleman approached me and asked if some fellows could use one of our fields to fly some RC planes. I told him that if he had run into anyone else they would probably have told him to go fly a kite. But he ran into the right guy and I got permission from the boss to let them use a field. That was in May of 1964. The next Saturday, 10 guys showed up and the Greater Cincinnati Radio Control Club made the Seminary its flying home. I believe they flew there until 1990.

The men were very generous to me and the seminarians who were interested and provided us with numerous planes and equipment. When the new gym was build and the original building renovated, a large hobby area was created next to the bowling alleys. This gave the seminarians another activity, and there were always 10 to 15 kids building, flying and, yes, crashing planes and RC cars.

I always thought this was a great hobby for kids because it teaches them discipline and patience.

They have to build it right, no warps or weak glue or solder joints. When a teen would start with a bunch of sticks of balsa, get it assembled and make it fly, that kid would be on a high for a week.

Another reason why I think this is a great hobby is that it keeps your eyes heavenward when you are flying, and it’s humbling when you crash.

In 1980 when I was transferred to Louisiana, I really didn’t have or take the time to build and fly.

Only once in three years did I go flying. But when I got to Batesville, Ind., I took it up again, formed a club and became the local hobby shop. I had a great time there and made many new friends. From there I moved on to Bloomington, Ill. For 23 years while serving as pastor at St. Mary’s, I flew with the local club. We held our meetings at St. Mary’s School and flew electric planes in the gym after the meeting.

I am now back in Cincy and active again with the GCRCC. This hobby has been a great pastime for me and I am still enjoying it in retirement. Well, I am sort of retired. I help out in parishes around town almost every weekend and several days during the week. I am most grateful to my friar community and friends who make it possible for me to pursue my hobby.

(Fr. Ric is based at St. Clement Friary in Cincinnati.)