Helmet, gloves, sponge: what a bishop needs for RAGBRAI


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Everywhere Bishop Tom Zinkula goes, people ask about “RAGBRAI.” They’re enthusiastic about their bicycling bishop, the spiritual leader for Pedaling to the Peripheries, a 20-member team participating in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa the week of July 22-28.

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula shows off some of his bicycling essentials outside the St. Vincent Center in Davenport.

Where else can you find a bishop pedaling the peripheries to encounter some of the nearly 10,000 bicyclists on the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world?” (www.ragbrai.com)

“I hear about it all the time,” the bishop said the day before an interview with Relevant Radio. A diocesan youth minister told him that one of her young relatives is creating a sign that he’ll be holding when the bishop rides through the boy’s town. Anticipation is building, and that makes the bishop just a little nervous!


He’s had a few mishaps in recent weeks that left him wondering whether “all of these things are keeping me from riding RAGBRAI,” he joked. His guardian angel, however, appears to be looking out for him.

For starters, while doing squats, he injured his knee. “I heard a clicking sound,” he said. He headed to the orthopedic clinic where he received a cortisone shot and assurances that his knee would be fine after a few days’ rest.

Next, while driving home after confirming youths at Ss. Mary & Joseph Parish in Sugar Creek, Bishop Zinkula experienced flashes in his left eye and floaters. He is at risk for a detached retina, so he drove to the emergency room to have the eye checked. The retina had not detached; he is dealing with an eye problem that becomes more common as people age. It will not keep him from RAGBRAI.

Then there’s the bike shorts challenge. The bishop, who admits to being frugal, hasn’t invested in a pair of bike shorts in years. Regular shorts don’t have the cushy padding of bike shorts, so he experienced discomfort riding his bicycle long distances. Not wanting to disappoint his RAGBRAI supporters, he broke down and ordered a pair of bike shorts online and prayed they would arrive in time for RAGBRAI. In the meantime, Bishop Zinkula used his car-washing sponge to pad his shorts. That was a little awkward. Fortunately, he discovered that a new bike seat provided plenty of cushioning. The bike shorts arrived in the mail and the sponge is back in the car. He’s set, or so he thought.
During a recent bike ride that he managed to fit into a busy schedule, he slid on a patch of slick mud along the river and took a tumble off of his bike. Would that end his RAGBRAI plans? No. He suffered road rash but no broken bones or strained ligaments.

RAGBRAI, just one month away, is far more than a bike ride for the bishop. In addition to being present to other riders, he will celebrate Mass at each of the overnight stays, including Newton, Sigourney and Iowa City in the Diocese of Davenport. All are welcome to attend.
Maybe God is telling Bishop Zinkula that mishaps are part of the journey to the peripheries to share the love of Christ with others and that he should keep on riding.

Bishop Thomas Zinkula will celebrate the following Masses during RAGBRAI:

Sunday, July 22: St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Denison.
Monday, July 23: St. Joseph Catholic Church, Jefferson.
Tuesday, July 24: St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center, Ames.
Wednesday, July 25: Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Newton.
Thursday, July 26: St. Mary Catholic Church, Sigourney.
Friday, July 27: St. Mary Catholic Church, Iowa City.
The Mass begins at 6 p.m. each evening.

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