Whether it is blessing African elephants, tightrope walkers, clowns or rodeo cowboys, Dcn. Gary Nosacek is known for his rather unusual ministries. He has served as the circus and rodeo minister for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Circus and Traveling Show Ministry for years. He has traveled around the country blessing horses, tigers and lions, and marched with performers at the Shrine Circus. This time, however, he is truly reaching for the stars.
On July 11, Dcn. Nosacek, who serves as the deacon for Saints Peter and Paul and Three Holy Women parishes, was in Las Vegas flying weightless aboard the legendary Zero-G Vomit Comet. When Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines joked that the archdiocese hadn’t had a clergy member in space yet, Dcn. Nosacek seemed to take that as his personal challenge.
The deacon climbed aboard the specially fitted aircraft that dips and climbs through the air to simulate the feeling of weightlessness in 20- to 25-second intervals. He said he was a bit nervous about flying aboard one of the same Zero-G planes as Tom Hanks and Ron Howard used on Apollo 13, but he was concerned about his lunch — losing it, to be exact.
“It is as safe as flying in a regular plane, but I am a little worried about getting airsick, though,” Dcn. Nosacek said before the flight. “I am not sure how my tummy is going to react to constantly going from full gravity to total weightlessness. I am not just the first Catholic clergy to fly weightless — I may also be the first one to get sick in Zero Gravity.”
Aside from launching off Bishop Haines’ comment, Dcn. Nosacek said he has always been enamored by space travel, and he hopes that there will be a space ministry one day.
“Ever since I watched Lost in Space as a 10-year-old, I’ve wanted to go into space. I tried to fly in the Russian Fox Bat spaceplane a few years back, but it didn’t work out. When the Zero-G weightless opportunity came up, I jumped at it, or more correctly, I’m going to float at it,” he said. “If the USCCB or the Vatican ever appoints a space minister, I’d be first in line to do it.”
Dcn. Nosacek said he spoke to the Archdiocese of Orlando about this after the archbishop joked with the Pope about becoming the Prelate of Space since Cape Kennedy was in his territory.
“Nobody knew if the Pope had granted that, so I checked with them to see if I needed their Archbishop’s OK. Jurisdiction over space was never granted,” he said. “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, though, as the Zero-G plane never goes into space. Most weightless maneuvers are done between 25,000 and 35,000 feet.”
With his diverse background in Circus and Traveling Show ministry and his former children’s radio show, “Secret Clubhouse,” where he had circus performers, rodeo cowboys and wrestlers on the show, this new venture as a Roman Collared Cosmonaut seems to fit perfectly.