Two of the great adventures in my life are cycling and being a Catholic sister. In September, I’ll participate in an event that combines both! Cycling with Sisters is a 62-mile bike ride and social justice pilgrimage that will go from Chesterton to South Bend, Indiana. These days, I've been training for the ride and reflecting on my life of biking and prayer.
I’ve been a cyclist for as long as I can remember. I started out with a gravel bike. No, not like the sleek ones today. It was a hefty steel Schwinn with balloon tires, one of three bikes that my siblings and I raced over the bumpy gravel roads around our farm in northwest Iowa.
Often our pet crow traveled with us. It would fly overhead or sometimes swoop down and grab on for a wild ride on the handlebars. (In the photo below, you can see the crow perched on the bike rack.) We rode for miles, past fields of corn, soybeans, and oats. Occasionally we’d ride past a farm with a curious dog that would charge out and bark at us. We sprinted away as fast as one can on 30-pound Schwinns and loose gravel.
These experiences were formative in my life as a cyclist. To this day, sprinting is a standard part of my bike training routine, as are long rides at a more moderate pace. I also incorporate hill-climbing, which I developed a love for while in college in Dubuque, Iowa, with its steep limestone bluffs along the Mississippi River.
Prayer is also a regular part of my bike training. Sure, there are some obvious prayer times, such as riding in 20 mph headwinds and unexpected downpours. But I also experience cycling itself as prayer. And for me, it's a prayer of gratitude. I’m thankful for the ability to ride a bike, for the adventure of cycling and for the ways that cycling connects me to all God and all of creation.
I’m also thankful for a ride like Cycling with Sisters, where prayer is part of the ride itself! The 62-mile route in Indiana will include five stops for prayer that focus on needs in our world today. They’ll involve issues such as care of the earth, human trafficking, and Covid among others. The theme for the ride is “Hope and Resilience,” in recognition of 9/11 and the ongoing need to nurture these qualities in our lives and our world.
The prayer stops will be livestreamed so that people around the world can join us online during the ride. I hope to see you there! A schedule of the times of prayer stops will be available soon, so please stay tuned!
For more information about the ride and the cyclists, please visit cyclingwithsisters.org.