Blessings of the Bikes
Deacon Tom Gornick
Portland Oregon is recognized as one of the premier bicycling cities in the US. Currently over 6% of the city commutes by bike using over 300 miles of special lanes and paths. The question was asked, “Do Catholics bless bikes?” In June 2013, the Archdiocese of Portland Department of Evangelization and the Cathedral parish will host the sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes. The simple courtyard service offers prayers, scripture and a final blessing. A special moment comes with the reading of the names of individuals who died in bike accidents during the past year. Each name is read and the Cathedral tolls the bell in their honor. As people leave they receive a bicycle decal with the image of Our Lady of Ghisahllo, patroness of bicycling attached to a card in English and Spanish that explains the story.
The program brings together Catholics, families, singles, young, seniors, cyclist of various faiths and no faith. Portland Police Bicycle Patrol send representatives and Department of Transportation offer safety tips during the reception that follows. Of course the Cathedral is open for tours.
The Blessing of the Bikes has been covered in the media and gets attention on local Bike blogs. It is a simple fun outreach to our local culture. At the first blessing in 2008, it was attended by the mother and aunt of a young woman killed a few blocks from the Cathedral. After the service the mother, eyes filled with tears, said how grateful she was that the community remembered her daughter who loved to cycle. A local blogger, who claimed no religion, overhearing the exchanged said, “You gotta do this every year and I’ll get the word out.”