Accelerating evangelization at Andalusia motorcycle blessings
Photo Caption: Father Anthony Co, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Andalusia, blesses motorcycles and offers prayers for the safety of riders Aug. 21 at Ducky’s Lagoon bar and grill.
By: By Tom Dermody
ANDALUSIA — Soon after coming to St. Patrick Parish a year ago, Father Anthony Co noticed that on Thursday nights motorcycle enthusiasts gather by the hundreds at a bar and grill not far from the church for friendship and camaraderie.
“I want to meet those people,” Father Co recalled thinking about the crowds drawn to “bike nights” at Ducky’s Lagoon along the Mississippi River. “I really enjoy meeting new people and learning why they love the things they love.”
On Aug. 21, Father Co hung out with the biker crowd and conducted a “Blessing of the Bikes.”
Together with Father Charles Klamut, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Milan, the priests blessed about 70 motorcycles and their owners on a night when light rain limited the crowd. The goal? To begin friendships with the bikers, assure them they are loved by God “and that we’re praying for them,” said Father Co.
“Evangelization is about friendship,” Father Co told The Catholic Post prior to the event, “and friendship has to begin somewhere.”
At the evening event, the friendships began on a parking lot where the priests complimented the riders on their motorcycles, listened to their stories, and prayed for their safety. Father Co also handed out blessed medals and a card with a “Bikers’ Declaration” that included Scriptural promises and ended with “Thank you, Jesus, for letting me be a biker!”
“They were so thankful,” said Father Co of the bikers’ reaction. “They all left with a smile.”
While part of his motivation for planning the “Blessing of the Bikes” was personal — there have been motorcycle accidents within his family — Father Co said that befriending the bikers is a first step toward introducing them to his best friend, Jesus.
“This was a spectacle event,” said Father Co. “It’s an outreach where you’re waving a flag to get people’s attention that God loves them and there is a potential for friendship with me and Father Charles.”
The priests shared conversations with the bikers from 6 to 9 p.m.
Father Co is an enthusiastic proponent of the New Evangelization called for within the church. It asks all Catholics to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message, and then go forth and proclaim it inside and outside our parish facilities.
Father Co’s lasting memory of his night with the bikers wasn’t a ride on a Harley, but rather an indication that the New Evangelization is being embraced at his parish.
“I remember most my own parishioners who don’t even ride being present,” said Father Co. “That was a beautiful gift they gave me. We really are a family.”