Ten seminarians plus a few Bishops, priests and a pastoral leader are putting their feet up after cycling some 2,000 combined miles throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to promote vocations to priesthood and religious life.
One of those seminarians – Anh Do Mai – is from the Diocese of Allentown. A parish son of St. Paul, Reading, he is a third-year college student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia.
Anh Do Mai
Now in its second year, the five-day “Biking for Vocations” pilgrimage left St. Charles Aug. 5 and returned to the Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Aug. 9.
“I am very thankful to be able to participate in this event for the second time,” said Mai. “Personally, I believe that Biking for Vocations is emblematic of what the future Church will emphasize (even more than now), what it always has been, and is meant to be – a missionary church that goes out to the world. Overall, it was a very grace-filled experience.”
Over the five days, the seminarians pedaled and prayed along one of two routes: a 150-mile trek though Philadelphia and its northeastern suburbs, and a 210-mile journey that traced the perimeter of the five-county archdiocesan area.
The teams stopped at a total of 17 parishes, as well as Father Judge High School, enjoying fellowship and hospitality, sharing vocation stories, and at points celebrating Mass and holy hours.
The pilgrimage was “an awareness raiser at a few levels,” said Father Stephen DeLacy, archdiocesan vocation director.
“First, it shows that the Church is alive, vital and still on this missionary journey to get the Gospel message out. And the second message is that God is calling everyone in the Church to some mission, and he still calls young men to the priesthood, and men and women to religious life.”
The various stops also served as a kind of pastoral boot camp, preparing the seminarians for the often exhausting work of parish ministry.
“These guys are still novices in the sense of ministry, but they’re pushing their emotions, their spiritual life, their interiority to share the Gospel,” said Father DeLacy. They’re stepping into the public eye for five days. They’re going to come back more capable of ministry than when they left.”
A desire to draw closer to the archdiocesan parishes was the original inspiration for the project.
In 2019, seminarian Tucker Brown confided to classmate Christopher Massaro that he wanted to better acquaint himself with the archdiocesan area by cycling throughout it. Massaro agreed and suggested asking Father DeLacy to develop the effort into a vocations awareness event.
“It provides encouragement not only for the people we encounter, but also for us,” said Brown. “That was definitely something I experienced in the parishes, encountering the faith of so many people.”
Noting that neither the Covid-19 pandemic nor Tropical Storm Isaias had deterred the seminarians from “Biking for Vocations,” seminary rector and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior said the pilgrimage was “really reflective of endurance.”
The riders were accompanied for several miles by a few special guests, including Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre, and Bishop Joseph Coffey of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and a Philadelphia-area native.
“Despite the current pandemic,” said Mai, “we received great support and enthusiasm from all of the parishes we visited. I am sure that this pilgrimage will build a culture of vocation and affirms hope for the future, just like it does for me every time I think back on it.”
Much of this article and the photos are reprinted with permission of CatholicPhilly.org, posted Aug. 14 at www.catholicphilly.com. Information on Biking for Vocations can be found at https://heedthecall.org/bikingforvocations/.