Five men take the plunge
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by Stefani Manowski
August 6, 2012

The rays of the sun were warm and the waters of the lake were cool. What better time to take a plunge?

Five men did exactly that during the Paulist Plunge, a vocation discernment event held July 26 through Aug. 1 at St. Mary’s on the Lake, the Paulist retreat center on Lake George, N.Y.

This was the first event of its kind, according to Father Dave Farnum, Paulist vocation director, and the goal was to have men exploring the Paulist priesthood experience the community in an informal setting.

“[The Paulists] have a great place here on Lake George, so this is the perfect place to experience the community in a relaxed, fun environment.”

Father Dave Dwyer, CSP, host of the Busted Halo Show on SiriusXM satellite radio, leads Mass durign the Paulist Plunge in the St. Isaac Jogues Chapel on Hecker Island in Lake George.
Father Dave Dwyer, CSP, host of the Busted Halo Show on SiriusXM satellite radio, leads Mass durign the Paulist Plunge in the St. Isaac Jogues Chapel on Hecker Island in Lake George.

The men shared prayer, Mass and meals with the Paulists visiting St. Mary’s and learned about the community and its history. The men visited the Paulist-owned islands on the Lake, and celebrated Mass at St. Isaac Jogues Chapel on Hecker Island. There was, of course, time for swimming in the lake and games of mini-golf.

The experience opened “plunger” Nick Leeper’s mind to the experience of living in a religious community.

“Hearing the stories of the Paulists and just being here is something you just can’t find by reading a brochure or on a web site,” said the 19-year-old Rutgers University history major who found the Paulists through an online vocations match.

Paulist Vocations Director Father Dave Farnum, CSP, (far left) leads a session with the five men on the Paulist Plunge at St. Mary's on Lake, Lake George, N.Y.
Paulist Vocations Director Father Dave Farnum, CSP, (far left) leads a session with the five men on the Paulist Plunge at St. Mary’s on Lake, Lake George, N.Y.

“Plunger” Evan Cummings, 21, is well on his way to priestly academic studies as a philosophy major at Utah State. He, too, found the Paulists online through Wikipedia.

“I never knew of a ministry like theirs,” Evan said of the Paulists. “The more I meet different Paulists and hear their stories, the more it is easier to see if I am being called to the priesthood.”

Phil Garrity first met the Paulists at the University Catholic Center at the University of California at Los Angeles, and is now a parishioner at the Paulist Center in Boston, where he does impact assessments for a non-profit organization.

“The Paulists are so welcoming and progressive,” he said. “It is inspiring to see how open and engaging the community was, and how accepting they were of my questioning self. That was really special.”

The Paulist Plunge was an opportunity for men considering the priesthood to get to know the Paulists better, like Father Mark-David Janus, CSP, president of Paulist Press (far right).
The Paulist Plunge was an opportunity for men considering the priesthood to get to know the Paulists better, like Father Mark-David Janus, CSP, president of Paulist Press (far right).

Like his fellow “plungers,” 19-year-old Brian Petro is still contemplating his calling to a religious vocation, and said the Paulist Plunge was definitely a positive stop in his discernment process.

“This has been inspirational,” said the student at The Ohio State University, where he met the Paulists for the first time at the St. Thomas More Newman Center on campus.

“I like that we got to know individual Paulists on a more personal level by coming here,” he said.

Mike Hennessey discovered the Paulists by listening to The Busted Halo Show on SiriusXM satellite radio, and will now enter the Paulist novitiate in just a few weeks. He attended the plunge event as a further introduction to the community.

“The novitiate is part of ongoing discernment,” said the 30-year-old high school history teacher from New Hampshire. “This was a time to talk to others who have been where I am going and get a real feel for what the community is like.”

Father Dave Dwyer, CSP (lower left), Father Dave Farnum, CSP (lower middle) and Father Larry Rice, CSP (upper right) pose with the five men participating in the first Paulist Plunge – Evan Cummings, Phil Gamty, Mike Hennessey, Nick Leeper and Brian Petro.
Father Dave Dwyer, CSP (lower left), Father Dave Farnum, CSP (lower middle) and Father Larry Rice, CSP (upper right) pose with the five men participating in the first Paulist Plunge – Evan Cummings, Phil Gamty, Mike Hennessey, Nick Leeper and Brian Petro.