‘Saints and Sinners’ ride invites bikers to participate in evangelization

Deacon Bill Clower, second from left, seen here along with his fellow Knights on Bikes March 21, is president of the Arizona chapter of the Knights-of-Columbus-affiliated bikers’ group. (Courtesy Gerry Mulligan)
Deacon Bill Clower, second from left, seen here along with his fellow Knights on Bikes March 21, is president of the Arizona chapter of the Knights-of-Columbus-affiliated bikers’ group. (Courtesy Gerry Mulligan)

CAVE CREEK — The weekend before Arizona Bike Week, the Catholics in this biker community participated in their own way by having their motorcycles blessed before riding in the second annual St. Gabriel’s Saints and Sinners Poker Run.

The March 21 ride, partly intended as a fundraiser for St. Gabriel the Archangel’s building fund, also serves as a community-building event. Before the ride began, associate pastor Fr. Sylvester Modebei and Dcn. Jim Fogle blessed the riders and their bikes, while pastor Fr. Dennis O’Rourke was among the bikers.

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The Saints and Sinners Motorcycle Club is sponsored by St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish and is open to Catholics from other parishes and non-Catholics as well.

Info: (480) 595-0883 or saintsandsinnersaz.bike

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“It’s a good community-builder that also raises money,” said Fr. O’Rourke. “The people have a great time, and that is the most important thing.”

Fr. O’Rourke said he bought his first bike out of high school in the ’70s, and would even take his motorcycle on Communion runs during his first years as a priest in Massachusetts. Now incardinated in the Diocese of Phoenix, Fr. O’Rourke picked up riding again in the last few years.

“It’s just comfortable; it’s relaxing,” he said. “Everything else gets put out of my mind when I’m riding.”

The annual ride is the brainchild of Mary Blanche, the parish’s liturgy and music director, and also a rider. “We’re trying to provide a friendly Catholic presence in the biker community,” said Blanche.

Last year’s inaugural ride was also a catalyst to start the parish-sponsored “Saints and Sinners” motorcycle club. The theme for the annual ride and motto for the club, “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future,” helps them focus on their role in the New Evangelization.

“Any way to get people to the church is a good thing to do — that’s kind of what this thing is about,” said Fr. O’Rourke.

That theme has special significance for St. Gabriel Dcn. Bill Clower, who also serves as the president of the Arizona Knights on Bikes chapter, a group of Knights of Columbus who ride motorcycles.

“We have the same mission as the Knights of Columbus but we put a special focus on evangelization in the world,” said Dcn. Clower. “Christ came into the world for us sinners. I think the Catholic faith is especially good at that in recognizing we’re all sinful and in need of redemption, but we’re all on the path to redemption also.”

The event drew riders from not only outside the parish, but outside the Church. St. Theresa parishioner Gary Grimm brought his non-Catholic friend Bill Ford to join him on the ride. Joking that his helping organize the club is part of his penance from Fr. O’Rourke, Grimm said it’s a great way to connect with other bikers.

“The things that happen on a ride are unique,” he said. “We headed up with eight guys [and] swapped stories.”

Fr. Dennis O'Rourke (Courtesy photo)
Fr. Dennis O’Rourke, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Cave Creek, is ready to ride at the March 21 event. (Courtesy Gerry Mulligan)