By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Jim Tiedje secured housing for the 20 members of the Diocese of Davenport’s Pedaling to the Peripheries RAGBRAI team, assuring all that they would be amazed by the hospitality. By the end of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa on July 28, even Tiedje was overwhelmed by the generosity and self-sacrifice of the team’s hosts.
The weeklong ride required seven overnight stays, each night in a different town: Onawa, Denison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney and Iowa City. Tiedje, a member of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and the RAGBRAI team’s organizer, made housing arrangements with parishes in each of the towns. Members stayed in parish facilities or the homes of parishioners, who welcomed their guests with smiles, showers, food and a roof over their heads.
Keokuk County Catholics collaborate
“Our faith starts with hospitality and from the HOST of Christ we share his love,” said Father Charles Fladung, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Keota and St. Mary Parish in Sigourney. Parishioners of both parishes helped their pastor to host 2,080 bicyclists and crew members on the Sigourney parish grounds. Fr. Fladung also opened the rectory, church basement and school building as sleeping quarters for the Pedaling to the Peripheries team, led by spiritual director Bishop Thomas Zinkula.
The parishes’ volunteers, and their pastor, wore baby blue-colored T-shirts with the inscription: “Keokuk County Catholics — Holy Trinity and Saint Mary.” That made them easily identifiable for the many visitors on the Sigourney parish grounds … looking for a good meal, showers and other amenities, like ice.
Fr. Fladung carried a two-way radio to keep in touch with his volunteer crew and to ensure that everyone’s needs were met. Volunteers Shannon Greiner, JoEllen O’Rourke and Jenny Thompson estimated that as many as 200 people volunteered. More than 1,500 dinners were served, and a to-go breakfast was offered the next morning. “I am very proud to know that parishioners from both parishes came together to work,” Fr. Fladung said.
Onawa offers Mass, food, rest
At St. John Parish in Onawa, Father Michael Erpelding received a telephone call from Tiedje a few minutes after the RAGBRAI route was announced (in January). From that point on, the calls kept coming from people seeking a place to stay. The 428-mile week-long ride began July 22 in Onawa.
Saturday night Mass — the day before the ride — “was filled beyond capacity,” the Onawa pastor said. “There was a joyful atmosphere to the celebration. Several parishioners provided ministries for the Mass. The rectory and the classrooms were opened to accommodate Bishop Zinkula and his group. We had several teams working at the Knights of Columbus food booth at the fairgrounds and several teams working at the Rosary Society meal at the church. Others were volunteering in civic organizations and hosting groups in their homes and/or yards. There were approximately 100 volunteers. They served as many as 1,100 meals that night.
“We had approximately 50 people staying in the midst of our facilities,” Fr. Erpelding said. “We offered Mass, food and a place for some to rest. We are a town of about 2,500 people. We were asked to provide many services for around 10,000 people. I hope they had a pleasant time.”
Denison’s new pastor welcomes RAGBRAI guests
Father Randy Schon became pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Denison two weeks before RAGBRAI stopped in this town of 8,298. Approximately 95 people — including Pedaling to the Peripheries team members — stayed overnight in the school building while another 100 individuals spent the night outside in the parking lot area. Many more people stopped by the parish for a meal — chicken and noodles or Spanish barbecoa. “We served 650 people and served all the food that we prepared.”
The busy new pastor, who looked like a camp counselor, spent the day and evening tending to guests. “I visited with each outside group that came from seven different states,” Fr. Schon said. “It was a fine event for bringing people together from our parish and for meeting people from other places. Planning was done by many people long before I moved here on July 10. We made announcements at weekend Masses to get volunteer help and to get food donations. Parishioners were very generous with their labor and donations.”
Jefferson parish appreciates nice guests
Kathy Steussy, Jean Finch and Ann Grace Krieger of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jefferson opened their homes to Pedaling to the Peripheries team members. The property of Kathy and Bill Steussy served as Grand Central Station. Thick towels were piled high in an upstairs bathroom next to the shower awaiting use by tired, sweaty bicyclists. “It was so easy compared to 10 years ago,” Kathy said, referring to her first adventure hosting RAGBRAI guests — her son’s team.
Her parish served lasagna for 600 of the 10,000 or so RABGRAI participants stopping in Jefferson. The lasagna ran out at 6 p.m., the same time Bishop Zinkula began that evening’s Mass. “It’s a good thing the bishop ate early,” Kathy quipped. Providing hospitality “is the way we were raised … It seemed like all of the people we met were very nice.”
Ames parishes: It’s all about family
Joe Weyers, director of evangelization for St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center, was the mastermind for RAGBRAI preparations to welcome the Pedaling to the Peripheries team. Roxanne and Robert Stoker and Terry and Karen Burianek hosted some of the team members in their homes and organized the meals. Still other team members stayed at the ministry center. A few stayed at the rectory.
Roxanne wanted to be sure that team members had a good dinner and a breakfast for the road the following morning. So she contacted members of her small group from St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Cecilia and Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Ames. Members of Catholic Ames Young Adult Community (CAYAC) also assisted with the breakfast the following morning.
During the evening Mass, Bishop Zinkula made an observation in his homily that resonated with Roxanne. “The bishop had talked about coming together as one (family of faith). We came together as one Catholic family from different parishes, all for the same purpose, to bring hospitality to you guys,” she told The Catholic Messenger’s editor, a member of the Pedaling to the Peripheries team. The Stokers have ridden on RAGBRAI in past years. “We’ve been on the receiving end of RAGBRAI hospitality. It was nice to be able to give back,” Roxanne said.
Newton parish: proud to serve
Seven families from Sacred Heart Parish-Newton hosted Pedaling to the Peripheries team members: Dave and Sandra McNeer; Jim and Joan Thorpe; Susan and Del Metz; Jan Corey; Joe and Kay Fisher; Marty and Deb Stratton; and Steve and Mary Mullen.
The Newton parish began planning for RAGBRAI early on. Father Bill Reynolds, the pastor, asked for a parish council representative to attend a town hall meeting on the big event. Deacon Dan Goetz of Sacred Heart served on the Newton RAGBRAI executive committee. “He provided our connections to the Newton RAGBRAI team to inquire about hosting campers on our property and providing a dinner as a fundraiser,” parishioner Suzy Trotter said. “Several email conversations between council members, the city and Fr. Reynolds led to the first official meeting on May 15th to decide on the meal to serve, the core team, and plan the weekly meetings until the big event,” she added.
“The parishioners of Newton Sacred Heart stepped up to the plate, literally, to serve a fantastically memorable meal! …The majority of the volunteers were stationed in the serving lines piling the lasagna, garlic bread and salad on the guests’ plates as well as a group serving up pie and some friendly chatter about the day’s ride. All of the volunteers wore a bright green shirt with the Sacred Heart logo and a phrase that summed up the day ‘Serving the Lord & Serving You.’ We could not have been more proud of the approximately 100 parishioners that donated time and talent to the event!”
Volunteers served 994 meals and sold out before the evening Mass was over. Nearly 700 RAGBRAI riders camped overnight on parish grounds. A storm warning that night led Fr. Reynolds to open the building around 10:45 p.m. “Approximately 30 campers came in and we served them … pie at no charge,” Trotter said. Overall, “we witnessed the volunteers enjoying their time serving the guests and feeling the satisfaction of the volunteer work that seemed more like simple fun with friends! “
St. Mary-Iowa City sets up meal, sleep space
Pastoral Associate Sister Agnes Giblin, BVM, of St. Mary Parish-Iowa City, relied on a number of volunteers to provide hospitality for the Pedaling to the Peripheries team. Iowa City was their last overnight stop before riding nearly 70 miles to the finish line in Davenport the next day. Other bicyclists also stopped by for dinner.
“A lot of people were involved in hospitality,” Sr. Giblin said, “people who set up the parish hall, made the food, served it and cleaned up.” She ordered the food and provided support and gratitude to the volunteers. Earlier in the month, they had a RAGBRAI warm-up, serving about a dozen participants of the Bishop’s Bicycle Ride.
St. Mary Parish is used to serving large groups of people, but this year’s RAGBRAI was a little unusual. “Having people sleep and eat in the same place (the parish hall) was a little different for us. So, we had to configure the hall in a different arrangement.” Plus, volunteers served dinner and a to-go breakfast the following morning.
Sr. Giblin’s only regret: “I was sorry I didn’t have a guest book to sign. It would have been fun to know where so many different people had come from.”