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Bicyclists, non-bicyclists — and everyone in between — can celebrate Mass with Bishop Thomas Zinkula in each of the communities where RAGBRAI XLVI spends the night the last week in July.

The bicycling bishop will take off his helmet and put on his zucchetto to preside at 6 p.m. Mass July 22-27 during the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Bishop Zinkula is the spiritual leader for the Pedaling to the Peripheries team of 20 bicyclists and support crew organized by retired banker Jim Tiedje of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. This year’s 428-mile ride starts July 22 in Onawa and ends July 28 in Davenport, Bishop Zinkula’s “home turf.”

“Since I try to celebrate Mass every day, I decided to invite anyone else who is interested while we are on RAGBRAI, including local parishioners,” Bishop Zinkula said. “Celebrating with a group of people will make the Masses more meaningful for me, provide an opportunity for Catholic participants to come together in a spiritual manner, and give me a chance to connect with more people, including perhaps some relatively inactive Catholics who are living their faith these days ‘on the periphery.’”

“What a special honor it is to travel with the spiritual leader of our diocese,” Tiedje said. “And for him to offer Mass each evening will be a whole new chapter in my RAGBRAI career.”

One of the hosting churches, St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, looks forward to the bishop’s arrival July 24. “We’ve hosted RAGBRAI for a meal; we’ve not had a RAGBRAI Mass before. It will be really interesting for us to see how we do this,” said Don Alexander, parish secretary.

“To have a Catholic dimension is a pretty cool thing,” said Father Jon Seda, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas. Although he hasn’t bicycled in RAGBRAI or been in a host town before, the priest has heard that “one of the main draws of RAGBRAI is that you meet people from all over the world. But the boundaries we usually have on the street don’t exist on RAGBRAI. … You just celebrate life together.”

Fr. Seda, a good friend of the bishop’s, said he expects people who bicycle, live or work along the route to be intrigued by a bishop bicycling on RAGBRAI. “Evangelization is all about relationships, just building relationships,” Fr. Seda said. “Relationships are built on those back roads, bicycling. I think that’s great. Pope Francis says to think outside the box; I think this is a great way to do it.”

Plans are underway to provide food at St. Thomas Aquinas, another element of drawing people in, the priest said. “I can see people saying, ‘Well, this is interesting;’ especially if food is connected with it. The more we can show a joyful, positive face about having faith in Jesus Christ, the more people are intrigued by that.”

Don’t expect to see Fr. Seda bicycling alongside the bishop, however. “He can do all that lollygagging around. I’ve got work to do!”

RAGBRAI Mass schedule:

Sunday, July 22: St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Denison.

Monday, July 23: St. Joseph Catholic Church, Jefferson.

Tuesday, July 24: St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center, Ames.

Wednesday, July 25: Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Newton.

Thursday, July 26: St. Mary Catholic Church, Sigourney.

Friday, July 27: St. Mary Catholic Church, Iowa City.



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