Bike 4 Vocations cyclists stop in Fredericksburg

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If you are one of the hundreds of commuters who brave the Northern Virginia roads every morning, then you might have noticed five men in red jackets cycling beside you on your way to work.

Biking 4 Vocations, a team of cycling priests and seminarians took to Route 1 June 5 on their way to Washington. The cyclist team from the Rockville Centre Diocese, which consists of two priests and three seminarians, are biking up the East Coast to encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

They took a break from their 1,400-mile trek from Florida to New York to stop at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg June 4 to speak with the youth group about their mission.

One of the first questions was how the group came up with the idea of biking for vocations. The team was quick to point to seminarian Stephen Rooney who, in turn, passed the credit to the Holy Spirit for bringing the team together.

When Rooney, an avid cyclist, approached vocations director Father Joseph Fitzgerald for permission to do the ride, he had not thought of getting a team together. To Rooney's surprise, Father Fitzgerald not only granted permission but wanted to join him. The other members of the crew came together in a similar fashion and trained hard for the journey, a 29-day ride.

It hasn't always been a ride in the park.

"This is a pilgrimage, so it is not supposed to be easy," said Father Fitzgerald. "Yesterday was really hard. The team traveled 58 miles from Richmond to Fredericksburg in the rain while also having to traverse very hilly roads and deal with flat tires."

The ride also can be dangerous at times. Rooney told the young people about the speeding car that zipped past the group and actually brushed his hand.

"Had it been six inches to the right he would have hit us," said Rooney.

St. Mary's youth group member Clare Bereit was impressed with the group's dedication.

"Having just completed the Spanish Camino (de Santiago), I knew where they were coming from," said Bereit. "It's inspirational."

Seminarian Steven Diaz encouraged the teens to listen to the innermost voice inside themselves and not get discouraged when they don't know where to turn.

"Whenever I had doubts about where my life was going I would say, 'Jesus I trust in you,'" said Diaz. Those simple words gave Diaz peace and got him through the hard times during his discernment.

The team continues its pilgrimage up north and is expected to arrive at their final destination June 14, just in time for ordinations in the Rockville Centre Diocese.

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The Bike 4 Vocations crew as they start out on their two-wheeled commute to Washington from Fredericksburg.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015