Holy rolling down the highway

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Friday 30, May 2008 | Category:   Clergy

Msgr. Mark Giordani
on his Harley-Davidson Road King

On a flatbed truck parked between the Paterson, New Jersey County Jail and St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Monignor "Father Mark" Giordani (right) presides at the Annual Bike Blessing and Mass for the couple thousand bikers who stop in downtown Paterson on their way to the yearly Memorial Day Rolling Thunder event, when bikers assemble in Washington, D.C. to honor Americans who have died in wars, are missing in action, or have been prisoners of war.

When Giordani came to the United States from Italy, where he was born, he asked to be assigned to the poorest parish in the Paterson diocese. Today he is rector of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral parish, which numbers 3,000 mostly Latino members. He also serves as chaplain to the county prison, the Paterson police and sheriff’s offices, and the New York-New Jersey Port Authority—a job he took ten days before the 9/11 attacks. Giordani also founded the Christian Riders Motorcycle Club in Paterson in 1969 “to promote faith, dignity, and brotherhood through motorcycling.”

His arrival in the U.S. led him as well to move up from his Vespa motorcycle to a Harley-Davidson Road King (see above)—which is decorated with images of Christ’s life. “We have the Nativity,” Giordani told Lucky Severson of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. “We have the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and, of course, the Holy Spirit on the tank, which branches out to the saddle bags.”

He loves riding. “It’s just exhilarating—the sense of freedom, the sense of enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, and it’s just a powerful and magnificent gift for me,” he said. But his involvement with motorcycles goes beyond personal enjoyment. He also ministers to people—bikers—who can feel unwelcome in churches. “We’re ostracized just for our hobby, our mode of transportation,” said rider David Bove, “and it’s nice to be in a group of people that kind of look like me. We all have the same mindset.”

Giordani attests to the faith of many bikers, even if they don’t belong to a church, let alone a Catholic church. “They read the Bible,” he says. “They say their own prayers, and they offer prayers for those who are sick, so there is a special connection with God in their own unique way. I mean, what does God want really want from us? A loving, humble heart. So uncomplicated.”

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