Polar plunge for St Pat’s cathedral

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Three Catholic leaders in Auckland are to plunge into the ocean in the middle of winter to raise funds to assist St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Auckland diocese general manager James van Schie will be joined by two principals – Sarah Dwan of St Mary’s College and Raechelle Taulu of Marist College – in the “Iceberg” swim on Waiheke Island on July 2. The event is part of the New Zealand Ocean Swim Series.

Three Give-A-Little pages have been set up through which people can donate for each of the three.

Last year, Mr van Schie and Ms Dwan participated in the same event, and raised $5750 and $2870 respectively. The goal this year is to beat that, or get to a combined total of $10,000 raised.

Instead of swimming 750 metres as they did last year, this year they are aiming to complete a 2000 metre course.

The “mad idea” for the mid-winter swim came about last year after Mr van Schie saw a billboard advertising the event, and he recalled his swimming prowess as a teenager.

But this year he said that, “I made the mistake of doing it once, and now it feels like I am stuck and have to do it again. . . . I do hope this does not become a tradition.”

Mr van Schie admitted that he has hadn’t done any training so far this year, with the event a few weeks away. Last year, he prepared for two months. “I aim to finish,” he said.

Ms Dwan said that her swim last year “was well-received”.

“Many thought we were a bit mad to even attempt it,” she said.

But with many of the St Mary’s full school Masses being held at the cathedral, students could see the link to the swim, she said.

“It was lovely to see some of our local Waiheke students involved in the event as well. Schools are busy places, so I went from the swim to supporting a group of our students who were singing at the All Blacks match the same evening!”

Mrs Taulu said that Mr van Schie and cathedral administrator Fr Chris Denham invited her to participate in the 2022 swim.

“I thought it was an excellent opportunity to be involved and make a small contribution to the life of the cathedral,” Mrs Taulu said. “It was also great motivation to be active and get fit.”

She hopes to raise enough money, along with the other swimmers, to support the cathedral.

“I would like to finish the swim within the hour mark, without freezing. I think it is important that our rangatahi see adults being active and role modelling the importance of setting goals, challenging oneself, and having a purpose.”

NZ Catholic reported last year that Fr Denham was very grateful for the fundraising, which would help with “keeping the cathedral going”.

With the pandemic, closed borders and few international students, numbers at Masses at the cathedral had dropped by 40 per cent last year compared to the previous year, and this had greatly impacted the cathedral parish’s finances, he said.

This year, Fr Denham told NZ Catholic that there have been “further lockdowns since last year and numbers have not rebounded. There are still a lot of people who are nervous about big gatherings”.

“So, our income is still down, but our fixed expenses continue. We feel it is even more important in these times that the cathedral is open throughout the day as a place of prayer within the city. But that means that we still have to pay the bills, everything from electricity to insurance, as well as paying our staff who are working incredibly hard to keep things going. We are once again looking at a six-figure deficit.”

“Obviously we are very grateful for the time and effort that James, Sarah and Raechelle are devoting to this,” Fr Denham added.

“We would be very appreciative of any support that people can give them, and especially contributions to their fundraising pages.

“I, myself, will be on Waiheke on the day to cheer them on, and to express the thanks of the whole cathedral community for their efforts.”

All donations will go towards providing for the needs of the cathedral, the Give-A-Little pages for the three swimmers stated.

Donations can be made at: www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/james-is-swimming-for-st-pats and www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/sarah-is-swimming-for-st-pats and www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/raechelle-is-swimming-for-st-pats

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Michael Otto