Freezing for the faith: More than 1,000 take plunge to support Catholic education

By Lois Rogers | Trenton Monitor Correspondent

Talk about the weather!

In years to come, when eyewitnesses and participants shared stories about the Polar Plunge for Catholic Education sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Patrick Torphy Division, it’s a given that the frigid temperatures, snow-topped sand and pounding surf of the 11th annual event on the shoreline off Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant Jan. 8, 2017, will make for lively conversation.

The team of bejeweled, bewigged swimming “Elvi” who joined in, marking the King’s 82nd birthday with a plunge, will only add to the discussion.

Indeed, the diabolical weather conditions – the temperature hovered just over the single digits – seemed to inspire a heavenly, if raucous, effect as plungers, parents, clergy, religious, faculty, staff and members of the community prepared to honor their commitment.

First, they prayed, then they marched from Rooney’s along the promenade and then down the frosty sand carrying their school flags. They gathered at the water’s edge, cheering and singing out school songs – Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy seemed to have the edge on the latter – before the signal went off and hundreds made good on their pledge to immerse themselves in freezing water for the benefit of Catholic schools.

Oh sure, there were some faint of heart, who just kind of dipped their toes in this year, but most went for total immersion – quickly to be sure – in and out and darned happy to be greeted by supportive schoolmates and relatives who wrapped them in towels, blankets and shawls and escorted the brave souls back up the beach.

Though keen observers reported that the number of those who filled the shoreline was down a bit from last year, still reports indicate there were well over 1,000 in attendance. Jim Shaw, event chairman and member of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, estimated several hours later that their bravado raised upwards of $100,000 – all of which will be used by the schools for projects to benefit their own particular needs.

After the plunge, Shaw, who had joined in the fun of this year’s Elvis theme by decking himself out in suitable rain gear, reflected on the Polar Plunge’s history and mission. The Hibernians had originally created the fundraiser to benefit two Middletown Catholic schools – St. Mary School and Mater Dei High (now Mater Dei Prep).

Over the years, it has grown to benefit more than 25 Catholic schools from around the Trenton Diocese and New Jersey. To date, more than $1,000,000 has been raised for this worthy cause, he said.

Shaw seemed clearly moved by the turnout on such an intemperate winter’s day.

“I can’t believe so many people came out to support Catholic education,” he said. “So much planning has gone into today and we had to go for it. This was the day. It’s great to see the support.”

Committed to Catholic Education • People of all ages took the plunge in the Atlantic Ocean Jan. 8. See a photo gallery from the event, HERE. Jeff Bruno photo

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