Local pro-life pastor pedals prayer intentions to Texas shrine

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A sleeping bag, toothbrush, protein powder, water and vitamins, are just some of the essential supplies Father Terrence R. Staples, pastor of St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Orange, will bring with him on his 1,400-mile bike ride from Florida to Texas this July. In addition to the 60 to 80 pounds of gear loaded onto his Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, he also brings the prayers of his parish.

“It is very refreshing in the end, I love reading those requests.” Father Terrence R. Staples

“It’s like a pilgrimage,” said Father Staples, who got into bike riding the same way many young kids do when they find the courage to take off on their first two-wheeler. He got his first good road bike in seminary, which motivated him to start taking his rides farther and farther. His daytrips turned into overnight trips and those turned into several nights on the road. 

He bought his first touring bike in 2005, which is better suited for weeklong trips due to the addition of racks for bags and tougher all-purpose tires. 

Three years later, he claims to have “lost his mind” and started doing the long summer cross-country trips. He uses the website adventurecycling.org to find bike-friendly routes. Sometimes he deviates to find a church, camping ground or hotel.  

“When I’m doing my treks, I am usually on the road by 4 a.m. The first hour or two are in the dark but I have lights on my bike. It’s a great time to ride. You can have 100 miles by noon then you feel like you still have time in the day,” said Father Staples. “There is so much to see. There are things around every corner — streams, mountains and wildlife. That is a really cool part of the adventure, riding into the unknown. It is different from riding in the car. You pick up the sounds and feel the atmosphere more.”

To prepare for the long trips, Father Staples usually starts training in the spring when the weather starts to get warm. His training week consists of two days of fast rides and one day with a 100-mile ride. One of his

favorite places to train is Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains. 

“It’s a good training place,” he said. “Hills that go on for miles and miles, which is good, especially since the last couple years I have been doing mountainous rides.”

Last year, he pedaled from Oregon to San Diego, a more than 1,000-mile trek that passes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

This year, however, he is trading the cool Northwest Mountains for the hot southern plains. He plans to drive to St. Augustine, Fla., July 15, the starting point for this particular trip and ride to San Antonio. He predicts it will take him a little more than two weeks, riding an average of 90 miles per day.  

Once he reaches San Antonio he plans to fly back to Florida and mail his disassembled bike back to the start point.

While he usually rides by himself, he is not alone in his journey. Parishioners use the Endomondo app to track his progress and send him messages and prayer intentions.

“For me, the heart of it is that I take all the prayer requests from the parish and I read all of these things before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “It can be very powerful, especially when you get to the end when you are all worn-out and you read them. For me it has been a very moving thing. Some of them are very intense.” 

The final destination for this year’s intentions will be the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio. There, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, weary from the adventure, Father Staples will sit for an hour or more until every intention is read.

“It is very refreshing in the end,” he said. “I love reading those requests.”

Before this year’s ride, Father Staples partnered with the Paul Stefan Foundation to raise money for their new regional home in Orange. This pro-life organization helps the unborn and homeless pregnant women in the area. Those interested in following Father Staples on his journey and helping him raise $100,000 for the home can go to www.paulstefanhome.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018