Cycling and spiritual reflections keep pilgrims fit

  • Written by Mary Louise Van Dyke
  • Published in Local
Joe and Nicole Martin take a breather during their Journey of Faith pilgrimage from Bellingham to St. Charles Parish in Burlington. Photo: Terese Dayton Joe and Nicole Martin take a breather during their Journey of Faith pilgrimage from Bellingham to St. Charles Parish in Burlington. Photo: Terese Dayton

BELLINGHAM – The eight bicyclists pedaling down scenic Chuckanut Drive Aug. 22 were getting fit, both physically and spiritually.

The group was part of the Northern Deanery’s Journey of Faith pilgrimage, one of a series of pilgrimages throughout the archdiocese. The pilgrimages highlight Western Washington’s Catholic heritage as participants make a “sacred journey of faith.”

Led by Father Bryan Dolejsi, the archdiocese’s vocations director, the cyclists pedaled a 50-mile route that looped from Church of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham to St. Charles Parish in Burlington.

Pilgrims John and Kathy Lange of Christ the King Parish in Seattle are experienced cyclists, but said they were challenged to keep up with their leader. “Father Bryan could go up a hill at 18 miles per hour and baptize two babies on the way,” John Lange said.

For walkers, there were routes within each community — in Bellingham, from Sacred Heart Parish to Assumption; in Burlington, from the old St. Charles parish site to the current church. Some chose to drive to St. Charles, where the pilgrims participated in a historical tour, paused for reflection and ate lunch. They also saw and learned about the icons of Mary, Mother of Tenderness, the Crucifixion, and St. Joseph the Worker that were added to St. Charles’ sanctuary in 2014.

bicycle pilgrimsBicyclists are ready for their 50-mile pilgrimage from Church of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham to St. Charles Parish in Burlington and back. Photo: Courtesy Father Bryan Dolejsi

For the cyclists, hilly roads along Lake Samish provided a challenge on the return trip to Assumption, where all the pilgrims were invited to gather for a historical tour and vigil Mass.

Although the ride went smoothly for the most part, Father Dolejsi said, one rider discovered a borrowed bicycle wasn’t a good fit and rocks punctured a tire on another bicycle. Both problems were dealt with quickly, though.

Joe Martin of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Everett praised Father Dolejsi’s role as ride support. “He came in handy, our Simon of Cyrene,” Martin said.

Father Dolejsi said he appreciated the opportunity to experience God’s presence in a special way, while cycling with other Catholics. Riding through the different communities, “I try to pray for all the people who live in these areas,” he said, “and for vocations.”

At ride’s end, the group gathered together in the Assumption parking lot, tired and pleased to have completed the journey of faith. Father Dolejsi looked at each person and smiled: “We all made it. Good job.”