By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
WASHINGTON — It was not your typical haircut snipped in the barbershop. No, Father Bernie Weir got his 20-inch-long silver locks cut outdoors — with a butcher knife — and scissors as several-hundred spectators laughed and cheered during a Sept. 9 fundraising auction for St. James Catholic School.
There sat Fr. Bernie, his hair sectioned off into eight braids, to be sold to the highest bidder outside the Knights of Columbus Hall next door to St. James Catholic Church. One of the successful bidders ran inside the KC Hall to get a butcher knife to slice off one of the braids. “He did a really good job,” said the priest, pastor of St. James Parish who is always looking for creative ways to raise money for the school. The other seven successful bidders used traditional hair-cutting scissors to snag their “trophies.”
The hair-raising experience generated $8,000 for the school, with half of that money coming as a match from a generous, anonymous donor, Fr. Weir said. But the school wasn’t the only beneficiary. None of the bidders kept the braids. The hair has been donated to Locks of Love, an organization that “aspires to help every financially disadvantaged child suffering from long-term hair loss,” according to its website.
“It was a lot of fun. Everybody had a good time. When they cut the first one off, everyone laughed and cheered,” Fr. Weir said. “It was a really good fundraiser.”
He has been growing and cutting his hair for charity for years, beginning in 1993. The charitable idea began simply enough. “I’d grown my hair and was tired of it. But I decided not to waste good hair,” he told The Catholic Messenger. Fundraisers have included raffles, a hair cut by a bishop, a hair cut by students and by a barber.
The time that Bishop (Emeritus) Martin Amos cut his hair was spontaneous. The bishop had arrived at St. James for the confirmation Mass, so Fr. Weir asked him for a haircut after Mass. “He was there for confirmation, so we thought we would do it that night so we could get a picture!”
A beautician from the parish assisted the successful bidders at this year’s hair-cutting event, showing them where to cut the hair. The whole process — from bidding to cutting — took maybe 20 minutes. “We had them come up and line up. They picked a braid and cut it off and held it for a trophy.”
The following day, Fr. Weir went to the barber to smooth out the haircut. He misses his long locks. “I had it all through the hot season and now it’s going to get cold and I don’t have (long) hair!”
Next year around this time, Fr. Weir plans to begin another hair-raising journey.