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St. John-Holy Angels priests, seminarian square off with barber shears to raise money for needy in Newark community

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Standing, from left, are Brennan Ferris, Father Stanislao Esposito and Father Carlos Ochoa in a video before any head-shaving occurred.

It sounds as if the power of persuasion is a strong attribute for Father Carlos Ochoa, the associate pastor of St. John-Holy Angels in Newark and coordinator of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington.

Or maybe he’s just good at utilizing the power of social media.

Brennan Ferris is the seminarian in residence during his pastoral year at St. John-Holy Angels. It’s the year between his second and third year of theology in the seminary.

Father Esposito picked up where Father Ochoa left off. Brennan Ferris held up his end of the pledge.

He may have been a little bit gullible when Father Ochoa beckoned him to join a Facebook Live session and committed him in real-time to a haircut challenge.

“It was a spur of the moment thing,” Ferris said April 23, a few short hours before he was scheduled to be separated from his crop of hair.

“I kind of got roped into it, but it’s cool,” he said.

Like everyone else, the parish members and leaders have been locked down during the coronavirus pandemic. But, along with members of the Knights of Columbus, they have still have been able to serve those in need. The Knights and other parish members helped supervise a socially distant-correct food drive that served more than 200 Latino and other families in need of food.

“We had a ton of parishioners show up, pop their trunk and people one-at-a-time gathered donations” which were later distributed, Ferris said.

That’s when the conspiracy began.

Father Ochoa had pledged on Facebook to establish a “Go Fund Me” account to raise money for more food for the needy. He would shave his head if the total amount reached $3,000, but to kickstart the momentum he recruited Ferris to have the locks removed as soon as the total reached $1,500. It was closing in on $2,000 late on April 23 and Ferris was running his fingers through his hair for the final time for awhile.

They didn’t stop there. Parish pastor Father Stanislao Esposito was the next target, Ferris said.

“Father Stan was gracious enough to join in, at least the top of his head,” said Ferris, adding that Father Esposito’s signature beard was open for negotiation. The campaign target will likely need go even higher for the pastor to go clean-shaven.

Ferris said Father Ochoa has also challenged some elected officials but it remains to be seen who might accept. He said Father Ochoa was scheduled to do the honors of cutting the seminarian’s hair and they have obtained some genuine equipment for the rookie barber. Ferris is borrowing the clippers from his sister, a former hair stylist.

“It’s going to be Army-style — pretty hard to mess up,” Ferris said.

Or so he hopes.

Click here for the Go Fund Me page.