Monmouth teacher, students record song to support, promote ‘pedaling priests’

Father Tom Otto watches the debut of the music video "Riding for the Lord" after it was recorded April 5 by the students of Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth. The song supports the bicycle ride across the Diocese of Peoria that Father Otto and two other priests will undertake later this month to seek prayers for priestly vocations. (Provided photo)

MONMOUTH — As Father Tom Otto rides his bike across the Diocese of Peoria to raise prayers for and awareness of vocations, he will have a song in his heart thanks to the students at Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth.

“Riding for the Lord” has lyrics written by music teacher Alisa Ramer and is sung to the tune of “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” a favorite of the children. They learned it one week before coming together on Wednesday, April 5, to film it as a surprise for Father Otto, parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception, as well as St. Patrick in Raritan.

When they finished, he was ushered into the gym to watch the video and receive pictures drawn for him by the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten pupils.

“It was so creative. They never cease to amaze me with their creativity and their energy and their enthusiasm,” Father Otto said, praising Ramer as an “amazing music teacher.”

“We’re blessed to have her here,” he said. “That’s the type of thing that seems to happen on a regular basis with her. These inspirations come and it’s always something remarkable.”

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Father Otto is undertaking the ride, which will start with a rally at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline, and end with a celebration at Schlarman Academy in Danville, from April 24 to 28. Also “Pedaling for Prayers” are Father Michael Pica, parochial vicar of St. Patrick of Merna in Bloomington and St. Mary in Downs, and Father Adam Cesarek, parochial vicar at St. Mary in Pontiac, St. Paul in Odell, St. Joseph in Flanagan, and St. John in Cullom.

Father Otto receives drawings from pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth in support of his ride. (Provided photo)

They have been training in earnest since a warm spell in February made it possible to be on the road and they have experienced every kind of weather and temperature they are likely to encounter as they ride.

They’ll do it with the thoughts and spiritual support of the students at Immaculate Conception, who musically pledged “We will pray for the Fathers, we will pray for all three. We will pray 10 Hail Marys and say one Glory Be. We will pray for their strength and for their energy.”

In the refrain to all three verses, the children sing, “And we know they are riding for the Lord, for the Lord. Yes, we know that they are riding for the Lord.”

The idea for the song came to Ramer about two weeks ago, when she woke up singing it in the middle of the night.

“I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool’ and then I thought, ‘I’ll write down the words in the morning. This can’t be happening,’” she said. Fortunately she thought again and after sitting down with a notebook, “I couldn’t write fast enough. It was divine intervention.”

Ramer said that as part of the preparation for their surprise, which the children anticipated with great joy, she showed them the videos each of the priests had made and a map of the Diocese of Peoria. Many of them didn’t know the diocese was so big, she told The Catholic Post.

“He does so much for us here at the school and not just by saying Mass or hearing our confessions,” she said of Father Otto. “He’s at every sporting event, he’s at every musical and play we do — he even gets in there and does cameo appearances in our productions. We owe it to him to support what’s important to him and what should be important to us.”

PRAYER AND SACRIFICE

Ramer and her husband attended the Hundredfold Workshop in January, which provided information about how to promote vocations in a variety of ways, especially prayer. They are part of the vocation apostolate at Immaculate Conception.

“I want the kids to know that this is important,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a priest or nun, but to follow your vocation.”

“For us, it’s so neat to see people getting excited about this and, most importantly, praying for vocations,” Father Otto said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

More information about “Priests Pedaling for Prayers” can be found on the website for the diocesan Office of Priestly Vocations, comeandfollowme.org. There is an opportunity to make a donation to cover the cost of the ride, but since it is a “prayer-raiser” there is also a link to a page where people can indicate what prayers and sacrifices they will make “for more priestly vocations after the Sacred Heart of Jesus for our diocese, for the protection of the vocations of those who are called, and for the seminarians of the Diocese of Peoria.”

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