EVERETT – Five dozen teens and adults used pedal power and took turns carrying a wooden cross on their backs to experience the Stations of the Cross at parishes around Snohomish County.
“It was almost like a Tour de France,” said Dominican Father Francis Hung Le, parochial vicar of Immaculate Conception/Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in north Everett.
Bicycling long distances between the stations was a small way to experience Christ’s suffering, Father Le said. It took about eight hours (including a break for lunch) for the riders to cover 27 miles.
The Feb. 24 journey began after morning Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Everett. Members of the parish’s English-, Vietnamese- and Spanish-speaking communities bicycled first to St. Michael Church in Snohomish, then to St. Mary Magdalene Church in south Everett and Immaculate Conception Church in north Everett before returning to OLPH. At each church, the bicycle riders stopped to pray several of the Stations of the Cross.
The event was a way for teens to live out their faith in public, Father Le said, and instill in them awareness of a bigger church outside their parish. “We are a mystical body of Christ in a concrete sense,” he said.
Some 60 parishioners gather outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Everett for the bicycling Stations of the Cross event
Visiting neighboring churches also allowed participants to experience the church’s different terrain, Father Le said, whether that’s economic, geographic, or even in the way a church building is designed.
“I got to hang out with friends and have a Jesus moment also,” said 14-year-old Zachary Shambro, an altar server at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who participated in the ride.
Peter Nguyen, another rider from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, said he hopes his wife and their two teenagers will join him for the ride next year. “It’s meaningful for the faith and it’s good for the community,” Nguyen said.
An avid bicyclist, Father Le started the Stations of the Cross bike ride while serving at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland. He also bicycled there with the parish youth, who would accompany him on visits to the homebound — Father Le providing the Eucharist and the youth joining in with prayer. It was a “spiritual meals on wheels,” Father Le said.
He introduced the bicycling Stations of the Cross at Immaculate Conception/Our Lady of Perpetual Help when he arrived to minister to the parish’s Vietnamese Community. In 2017, about 30 people rode the Stations, which included stops at St. Mary Parish in Marysville and St. Anne Mission in Tulalip. After being named parochial vicar in 2017, Father Le broadened the event to include the rest of the parish.
He hopes to expand the stations next year with visits to more neighboring parishes. And he has thoughts for a new event: “My next step is to do Stations of the Cross on skis,” he said.
“I want priests to be engaged with the youth,” Father Le said. “They need a father figure.”