Oprah Winfrey has done it. The New York Mets have done it. Kermit the Frog has done it.
And now, so have friars of Holy Name Province.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has made headlines and flooded Facebook in recent weeks. The fundraiser dares participants to either raise awareness for ALS by getting drenched with a bucket of ice water or donate to the organization. Many have chosen to do both. Thousands of videos have been uploaded using the hashtag #icebucketchallenge since the movement went viral a few weeks ago.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. People with the disease eventually lose the ability to control muscle movement, leading to total paralysis and death, often within two to five years of diagnosis.
There is no cure. Only one drug to provide relief has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it extends survival by only two or three months.
Francis Pompei, OFM, and Jud Weiksnar, OFM, of St. Patrick Friary in Buffalo, N.Y., were among the first friars to accept the ice bucket challenge. In a video uploaded Aug. 13, the two gather in their habits before a healing service to show their support for those with the disease.
“We are among the people who are in solidarity with and praying for and supporting those people who have the disease ALS,” said Francis. “The challenge is to show them our prayers, our support and our love, and pour cold water and ice cubes over our heads.
“Those in our prayer community know that in the past I have prayed for one of my closest friends of 45 years who has ALS,” said Francis. “I want him to know that what I’m doing here is telling him how much I love him, and how much I am inspired by him and his great faith during this life-threatening disease.”
After a drumroll and a countdown for dramatic effect, Francis and Jud soaked each other with a bucket filled with ice water. Afterward, the two challenged others to take part. Jud called on other friars, including Patrick Tuttle, OFM, Casey Cole, OFM, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, and Juan Turcios, OFM, as well as the Franciscan Volunteer Ministers in Camden and the friary dog, Lupe. Francis challenged his nieces and nephews, as well as Michael Duffy, OFM.
“All those people who have ALS, God love you,” Francis said. “We’re going to be praying for you at our healing service.”
Hugh Macsherry, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Camden, N.J., was quick to accept his challenge. In a video posted Aug. 16, he gathers with FVM Tammy Kinney and Sue Piliro, director of Francis House, in the backyard of the Camden friary during a cookout for the newly arrived FVMs. The parish staff watches as Juan Turcios, OFM, leans out the second story window and douses the three below.
“I took the challenge basically because Jud challenged me,” said Hugh. “It’s hard to say no when someone challenges you, even if it’s just out of pride! But it’s even harder to say no when you do a quick Google search online and read about how the disease affects people. If this is a little thing to do, why not do it?”
Soon after, Frank Sevola, OFM, of Pompton Lakes, N.J., used the challenge to urge people to do a good deed daily. He accepted the challenge with his sister, Tina, after being invited to by friends.
“I’m not going to challenge anyone to do the ice bucket challenge, but I will challenge you to be more charitable in your life,” said Frank, before the two dumped frigid water over each other’s heads. “Every day, do something to make your world more peaceful.”
In Boston, Brian Cullinane, OFM, playfully threatened the friends that had challenged him — “I’ll get you back!” — before upending the bucket. St. Anthony Shrine posted the video on its website and social media accounts, receiving more than 180 views.
Paul Keenan, OFM, in Wood-Ridge, N.J., braved the sudden chill to support the people he knows who have been affected by the disease. He took the challenge with John Buccini, OSF, an active parishioner and member of the Secular Franciscan fraternity at Assumption Parish.
“I accepted the challenge because I know families who are affected by ALS . Their incredible courage, strength and faith are a constant source of inspiration for me,” said Paul, who called on all friars watching the video to participate as well. “I challenged my brother friars because I feel this is a great opportunity to show support for a very good cause. This also shows our ‘Franciscan face’ to the communities we are part of.”
Many of the friars who participated also made a donation to an ALS charity. The ice bucket challenge, which has gone viral on social media, has resulted in a huge increase in donations for organizations that fund ALS research and provide services for people with the disease.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.