By Jennifer Willems
PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) – After riding bicycles a little more than 340 miles over five days, three young priests of the Diocese of Peoria sailed across the Indiana state line April 28, bringing Priests Pedaling for Prayers to a close.
“It does seem a little surreal,” Father Tom Otto said at journey’s end. “Things like this seem insurmountable when you begin, but maybe like life, you focus on the short-term goals. … That makes it doable. Take one little bit at a time and before you know it, you’ve done something pretty incredible.”
The effort to raise prayers for vocations began April 24 when Fathers Otto, Michael Pica and Adam Cesarek dipped their rear tires in the Mississippi River, which marks the border between Iowa and Illinois.
They were sent forth with the blessing of students at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline, who lined both sides of the street outside the school to cheer them on.
Along the way, they stopped to talk with students and parishioners at 15 schools and churches about the need for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, as well as good, holy marriages “from which all vocations come.”
They also celebrated Mass, took part in Holy Hours for vocations, stopped to pray at the Bishops’ Mausoleum in St. Mary’s Cemetery in West Peoria, and visited with people at potluck gatherings, dinners and receptions arranged by the vocation apostolates or Knights of Columbus councils in each area.
At most stops, they received pledge cards from children and adults with promises of prayer, sacrifice and good deeds to support them on the ride and ask God for an increase in vocations.
“What’s been really neat to see is the goodness of the people of our diocese. That’s been, for me, absolutely the most powerful part,” said Father Cesarek, who is parochial vicar at four faith communities in central Illinois.
“The overwhelming support we had from each and every place we went, the joy that each place had and the excitement that they maintained … really invigorated me and gave me an incredible hope for our diocese,” he said.
He said the trio were inspired by the good, holy people they encountered, including the priests of the Diocese of Peoria, many of whom were on hand for their visits and offered them hospitality for the night.