Persons, places and things: 4DiocesesCycling4Christ

Dawn Prosser/Lumen Media
Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, blesses RAGBRAI riders before Mass at St. Boniface Church in Sioux City July 22.

By Barb Arland-Fye


Christ is on RAGBRAI this week in each of us sharing the joy of the Gospel as bicyclists, support crew members, priests, bishops, deacons, parishioners, editors, reporters, communication directors/coordinators and diocesan staff.

Our journey to RAGBRAI, a 500-mile bicycle ride across Iowa, began five months ago with representatives of Iowa’s four dioceses brainstorming and collaborating on ways to bring our Church to the people. Together, we created the theme: “4DiocesesCycling4Christ” (#4Dio­cesesCycling4Christ).

Bishop Thomas Zinkula who leads the Davenport Diocese and is known as the “RAGBRAI bishop” for his participation in the 2018 and 2019 rides (during which he celebrated Mass) made a special request this year. He asked that all four dioceses collaborate to offer Mass daily on RAGBRAI. We responded with an enthusiastic yes — the dioceses of Sioux City, Des Moines and Davenport and the Archdiocese of Dubuque — to fuel bicyclists and others with food for the soul on RAGBRAI.

Bishop Zinkula

Spiritually, riders and their support crews were off to a good head start Saturday, July 22. Bishop R. Walker Nickless, who leads the Sioux City Diocese, gave a blessing of the bikes and presided at Mass afterwards at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Sioux City. RAGBRAI began the next morning.

We were thrilled to see the Des Moines Register’s coverage of our “spinoff” to RAGBRAI. This excerpt from reporter Courtney Crowder’s June 23 story is proof positive that when we work together as the body of Christ, the Church thrives:

“The blessing marked the beginning of 4 Dioceses Cycling 4 Christ, a partnership between all four Iowa dioceses that is not only highlighting and promoting Catholic events along the ride, but also heeding Pope Francis’ call to meet people with church outside of the pews. ‘Fifty years of RAGBRAI begins this weekend,’ the bishop said to hoots from the gathered crowd. ‘We know that we are not superstitious or anything, but a blessing really doesn’t ever hurt.”’

This week’s Catholic Messenger goes live Thursday, July 27, so you might have time to make the 4:30 p.m. RAGBRAI Mass at St. Patrick Church in Tama.

Bishop Zinkula plans to ride the last two days of RAGBRAI (Friday and Saturday, July 28-29) and will preside at Mass on the last overnight stop (July 28) at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Coralville at 6:15 p.m. He views RAGBRAI as an opportunity to follow Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries, to be in the midst of the sheep, to have the smell of the sheep, to be in touch with the world outside church walls. Admittedly, there will be some smelly sheep on this sizzling hot RAGBRAI.

We are grateful to the bishops and priests making Mass possible during RAGBRAI: Bishops Nickless, Zinkula and William Joensen of the Des Moines Diocese; Fathers Patrick Behm and Tim Johnson of the Sioux City Diocese; and Fathers Kyle Digmann and Michael McAndrew of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

I hoped to ride RAGBRAI on a bicycle with our diocesan crew but will instead ride in a support car with my husband Steve the final two days. It is an opportunity to experience RAGBRAI from a different perspective (at least that’s what I keep telling myself!).  With God’s grace, I’ll be back in the bicycle saddle for next year’s RAGBRAI and looking forward to continuing collaboration with my partners in the 4DiocesesCycling4Christ adventure.

Check out the website for RAGBRAI details. Share photos, too! Include the hashtag: #4DiocesesCycling4Christ.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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1 thought on “Persons, places and things: 4DiocesesCycling4Christ

  1. This is so cool!!! I will miss RAGBRAI this year, but have done it in the past. There are endless opportunities to visit with fellow riders along the way, and I am sure there will be many wonderful conversations…… renew one’s faith, to practice one’s faith, to spread the faith, to demonstrate the faith. Thank so much to the Bishops and Priests and all support staff, for showing us the way…… keeping the faith through heat and headwinds, Iowa chops, and an occasional PBR..

    Joel Heer, Dubuque

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