One Giant Leap for All Creation

Megan Nerz In the Headlines

OXON HILL, Md. — On the below-freezing morning of Jan. 22, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and three parishioners from St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md., joined more than 200 others in taking the Polar Bear Plunge organized by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The effort could lead to the development of a large-scale, offshore wind farm in Maryland.

Among the onlookers gathered to support, pray for and call attention to the moral dimension of global climate change were six Holy Name friars including, Michael Johnson, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus. Sr. Margaret Mary Kimmins, board president of the Franciscan Action Network, and more than a dozen Spanish- and English-speaking members of St. Camillus also took part.

Taking the Plunge
Before plunging in his Franciscan habit into the cold waters of the Potomac River, Jacek said, “As a follower of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, I feel strongly about the need to be more proactive in responding to the great threat that global climate change presents to humanity and the rest of the earth’s community. I’ve been challenged not only by the alarming reports of the overwhelming majority of reputable scientists but also by the words of Pope Benedict XVI who said, ‘Our earth is speaking to us, and we must listen and decipher its message if we want to survive’ and ‘The Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice.’”

Erick López, OFM, also present at the event, said, “I’m here, in part, because earlier this month at the Provincial Chapter, I was inspired by the words of a participant who represented young adults and challenged us to be more prophetic and bold in responding to issues of environmental justice.”

Spreading the Word
HNP’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation has produced a short video (in English and Spanish) focused on the Franciscan Polar Bear Plunge. The video is intended to engage a wide audience within and beyond the Province on the issue of global climate change, as well as to challenge viewers to take specific action steps.

The four-minute video can be viewed on the new JPIC in Action page of called “Global Climate Change: A Franciscan Challenge.”

As follow-up, the Province’s JPIC Directorate and Office would like viewers to help disseminate the video. Links to the new page can be posted on websites and Facebook pages as well as included in parish bulletins and ministry newsletters.

“We want to make sure people who work on environmental issues see this video,” said Russell Testa, director of the JPIC Office. “Send it to your friends via e-mail and encourage them to do the same.”

More information about climate change and other JPIC issues can be obtained by contacting Testa at

— Megan Nerz, a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., is a member of the Province’s JPIC Directorate.