Franciscan Flyers Run for the Needy

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News


From left to right: Ronald Pecci, Abraham Joseph, John Heffernan, George Camacho, Ramon Razon and John Aherne. (Photo courtesy of George)

WASHINGTON — What wears brown and white, and runs all over?

Several Holy Name Province friars are lacing up their sneakers and taking their ministry and Franciscan presence on the road. Six demonstrated their interest in social justice and fitness last week by running in a road race to benefit needy families in the nation’s capital. Two others in Upstate New York also ran in Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving Day.

John Aherne, OFM, George Camacho, OFM, John Heffernan, OFM, Abraham Joseph, OFM, Ronald Pecci, OFM, and Ramon Razon, OFM, of Holy Name College, participated in the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger, an event that attracted close to 100,000 attendees.

“The atmosphere was energetic on our brisk Thanksgiving morning,” said George, who organized the Franciscan Flyers team. “What better way to start the day than to run in our nation’s capital with a friendly crowd and for a wonderful cause? We had a blast.”

The 3.1 mile race, sponsored by SOME, an acronym for So Others Might Eat, has served the poor and homeless in the Washington area for more than 40 years.

“Thanks to the immense generosity of several donors, the Franciscan Flyers raised $875,” said George. “Altogether, the event raised over $500,000.

“As part of our effort to make justice, peace and integrity of creation more of a fixture in our lives at Holy Name College, we have had various events on a monthly or bimonthly basis since September,” George continued. “These events have included guest speakers, presentations, and even planting trees next to St. Camillus Friary on the feast of St. Francis. The Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger is the latest effort. It was a fun, healthy way to celebrate a meaningful holiday.”

The proceeds from the 5K benefit thousands of homeless families and single adults, including the elderly and people suffering from mental illness, by providing food, clothing and healthcare, according to George.

“Lots of folks wore unusual outfits,” said John Heffernan. “Our friar T-shirts, designed and produced by Ramon and George, attracted some recognition. Folks were generous in supporting us, which was a great surprise. Afterward, we were warmly welcomed home by our brothers at Holy Name College.”

Several Franciscan Flyers have participated in other road races.

In October, George and John Aherne ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington. In July, they, along with Ronald, the Province’s postulancy director, participated in the 5K race associated with the annual Bonathon festival in Allegany, N.Y.

John Heffernan, a lifetime running enthusiast, said: “As a postulant, 31 years ago, I ran the Boston Festival Marathon. I ran the Long Beach Island 18-Miler several times as a member of St. Francis Parish in the 90s. The years have damaged my knees, but I am grateful that I can still take a half-hour jog from time to time.”

Ronald has also participated in many races over the years. “Back at St. Anne’s Parish in New Jersey and in Wilmington, I would be in at least a dozen races a year. I had missed the excitement of the races, so when George let us know about his one, I was immediately interested,” he said. “I had volunteered with SOME when I was a student at the old Holy Name College, so I was aware of the good work that they do. I am no great runner or inspiration. I do it largely for vanity and health, and strangely, for enjoyment.”

John Heffernan said that Turkey Trots have been “a big deal” in Buffalo, N.Y., where he grew up, for more than 100 years. “I had an idea this year to look for one in D.C. I mentioned it to John Aherne and George had already looked into it.”


Jud Weiksnar heads for the finish line in Buffalo. (Photo courtesy of John Weiksnar)

In Buffalo, Jud Weiksnar, OFM, who, like John, grew up in Western New York, participated in the community’s annual Turkey Trot, a 5-mile Thanksgiving morning run on Delaware Avenue. “It was the 119th running, making it one year older than the Boston Marathon,” said the guardian of St. Patrick Friary, who spent much of the previous week shoveling snow after the historic storm.

“Out of the 14,000 runners, about one quarter of them dressed up, many as turkeys, pilgrims, Santa and hockey players. I ran in my habit, which Francis Pompei, OFM, hemmed for me with duct tape. People thought it was a costume, but I told them, ‘No, it’s the same habit I wear every day.’ It actually seemed to help my time. My practice runs averaged 10-minute miles, but during the race, I managed 9-minute miles. That was considerably slower than the last time I ran the race, which was 1985.”

On the eastern side of the state, Sean O’Brien, OFM, of Loudonville, N.Y., ran in the Troy Turkey Trot, which benefits several non-profit organizations, including North East Regional Food Bank and Joseph’s House. He was one of more than 8,000 participants in the 67th annual run, which attracted runners from all over the city on Thanksgiving morning.

“It was a great race,” Sean said, one that “rain, snow, sleet or hail will not prevent from happening.”

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.