By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
FAIRFIELD — St. Mary Parish hosted nine “Biking for Babies” missionaries on their overnight stop July 13 during the national bicycle ride to renew a “culture that treasures, celebrates and respects every life — from conception to natural death” (bikingforbabies.com).
They were among 79 young adult missionaries who rode 100+ miles a day from July 10-15, starting in different states and finishing in St. Louis or Washington, D.C. During their training and riding they strive to raise awareness and financial support for the women and families served by America’s pregnancy resource centers.
“The national ride originally began with one route across Illinois. God has inspired us to try a number of routes in our 14 years,” said Nikki Biese, executive director of Biking for Babies. “When we expanded to four routes in 2018, we decided to visibly unite our routes with our Lord and biked in the shape of our Lord’s cross ‘a-cross’ the country. With increased interest from young adults (79 in 2023), we have been able to launch more routes in places that God is calling us to be. We added two new routes in 2022 and two in 2023.”
St. Mary’s guests began their journey in Rochester, Minnesota and finished in St. Louis. As organizers mapped out the route, it made sense on day four to “ride from Des Moines to Fairfield,” Biese said. “We called St. Mary Parish and Father Nick (Adam, the pastor), was incredibly hospitable and excited to host us, so we felt blessed to ride through and receive his warm welcome.”
Each missionary prepared for the journey long before arrival in Fairfield. “The rider missionaries train physically beginning in March when formation begins,” Biese said. “The sooner they begin, the better. On average, the rider training takes 5-15 hours per week until the week before the ride when they taper.”
After arriving at the Fairfield parish around 5 p.m., the missionaries took quick showers and then attended Mass. Rider missionary Father Tony Schukei, presided. “Not every team is blessed to have a priest join them in riding,” Biese said. “This year we had three of the eight routes with a priest as a missionary. In the future, we’d love to have one on each route, helping provide spiritual fatherhood and Mass every day!” She added, “Father Schukei presided at or concelebrated during most of the evening stops. It was wonderful because most times parishioners were able to attend and celebrate Mass with the team.”
Father Adam and parishioners Patty Allen, Rose Karbacka and Tony Webb and his wife, Mary, prepared and served a meal of lasagna and side dishes for the hungry missionaries. Father Adam and Tony Webb were back in the kitchen in the wee hours of Friday morning to prepare and serve breakfast at 4:15 a.m. so their guests could get back on the road by 5 a.m. “I’m looking forward to a nap,” Father Adam told The Catholic Messenger hours after the missionaries departed. He added, cheerfully, “It’s all in service and hospitality.” He was especially impressed with the missionaries’ pro-life commitment.
The riders pedaled to Quincy, Illinois that day and the following day ended their journey in St. Louis. Fifty-three missionaries finished in St. Louis, either on bicycles or in the support crew vehicle, Biese said.
Biking for Babies is continuing fundraising efforts on behalf of pregnancy resource centers. Biese invites readers to make donations online at www.bikingforbabies.com/give or via check to the mailbox at PO Box 644, Saint Charles, MO 63302. “So far, the missionaries have raised $256,000 of our $280,000 goal for pregnancy resource centers. We’ll make our donations at the end of 2023,” she said.