Friars Take Part in Polar Plunge to Raise Awareness, Funding

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News


Jacek Orzechowski, James Bernard (second from left) and Steve Kuehn (fourth from left) participated in a polar plunge to raise awareness about climate change. (Photo courtesy of Jacek)

It has been a super season for fun in freezing water. Last week, hundreds went into the Potomac River in Maryland to raise awareness of climate change and this weekend, people at the Jersey Shore ran into the icy Atlantic Ocean as a fundraiser for St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach, N.J. Friars were part of both events.

On Sunday, hundreds plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Central Jersey as part of the 12th Annual Super “Plunge” Sunday, a fundraiser organized by St. Francis Community Center and the swim teams of Southern Regional High School. It took place at the 48th Street Beach in the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township.

Kevin Daly, OFM, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, was among those who ran into the water, something he has done for four years. He said he participates for two reasons — because it is fun and because it raises money for a good cause. All participants pay an entry fee.

Kevin Daly takes part in the Super Plunge in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of Lori Dudek)

Kevin Daly takes part in the Super Plunge in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of Lori Dudek)

Jersey Shore Tradition
“After the morning Masses, we walk from St. Francis Center — behind the church — to the beach,” said Kevin. James Scullion, OFM, pastor, leads a prayer service and “then we stampede into the ocean.”

The plunge has become a community favorite during the winter doldrums on Long Beach Island. The event — which encourages people to wear costumes and which offers refreshments afterward — grows in participation each year, according to a news release.

More than 200 people participated on Feb. 7, a day whose air temperature was 42 degrees and the ocean was 41 degrees, according to Lori Dudek, a community center staff member. The amount of money raised through the 2016 plunge will be calculated later this week.

The participants included an assortment of people. Awards were given to the youngest plunger, who this year was four-years-old, and to the oldest, who was 74, as well as to the person in the best costume and the participant who raised the most money.

The Super Plunge was started by Kevin Kriso, OFM, when he was stationed at the Long Beach Island parish. Kevin Daly said that when he first heard of the idea he didn’t think much of it, “but now I think it is great.”

The event is always held on Super Bowl Sunday — early enough so participants can complete the event, dry off and return to their homes to watch the football game.

Photos of this event and others are posted on the St. Francis Community Center Facebook page.

National Harbor Plunge
The previous weekend, farther south, Franciscans went into the icy Potomac River as part of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s initiative to raise awareness and money to move the region off fossil fuels and to clean energy solutions’

Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and several postulants from Silver Spring, Md., waded into the Potomac River with a group of roughly 20 people from their community. Prayers were offered by Bishop Mario Dorsonville, of the Archdiocese of Washington, before plunge participants displayed their concern for the environment, braving the winter temperatures at the National Harbor near the nation’s capital.

Postulant Steven Kuehn said it is important to “set an example by taking part in events such as these. It shows that we do care for the environment in which we live, and that we are extremely grateful for the abundant blessings from ‘Mother Earth.’ Whether it be the gift of warmth, cool breezes, fresh water to drink, or abundant produce to eat, we have so much to be grateful for here on this great planet. Thanks be to God! The least we can do is to show our appreciation and also to do the best we can in taking care of this wonderful planet Earth.”

He enjoyed the spirit and excitement of the people present, he said. “There was a buzz in the air leading up to the moment of running into the frigid water,” he said. “It was the first Polar Bear Plunge that I have participated in, but hopefully more in the future, God willing.”

“The event set a great example for the people present,” he added. “I don’t specifically remember any comments while entering the water, but when I watched a video, I heard someone mention something like, ‘oh look, here goes the priest.’ I remember thinking, ‘how wonderful!’ when I heard that. I think it is wonderful for Jacek to be out there in his habit and taking part of these events with the people. I think people can really relate to that.”

The video of the event, postponed a week because of the blizzard that struck Maryland on Jan. 23, was shared through social media. With Jacek and Steve in this glimpse of people laughing through their shivers is postulant Jim Bernard as well as members of the Franciscan Action Network.

Last year, Jacek and Dennis Bennett, OFM, participated in the 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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