Catholic Vancouver September 01, 2020
Catholic bikers are challenging public perceptions
Wayne Reville first got his motorcycle licence at age 19, and he hasn’t lost any love for riding since then.
Fifty years, and a few degrees into the Knights of Columbus later, the Okanagan Valley resident’s hobby has taken up a whole new meaning.
Reville has just become B.C.’s first provincial president for Knights on Bikes, an organization of Knights of Columbus members who own motorcycles.
“We follow the Knights’ goals. We follow the councils. We don’t do anything different than what the councils do, other than participate in charities and things like that on our motorcycles,” said Reville.
It may be a simple idea, but it has opened up a whole new world of evangelism and personal faith formation for bikers like Reville.
“In Ontario, when [the Knights on Bikes] go on their rides, they will ride from church to church and say a part of the Rosary at each church, then go to the next one. It gives them an opportunity to go out and socialize and keep the faith at the same time.”
Canadian national vice president Dennis Mailloux, who can be seen cruising on his Yamaha V-Star 1100 around Ontario, told The B.C. Catholic the thunderous roar of a group of motorcycles attracts unique attention to the Knights and the events they support.
“It brings out what the Knights of Columbus do in a more visual way,” he said, adding sometimes people approach them more interested in the motorcycles than the Knights, at first.
“You call on the Knights on Bikes to show up to do a bike show or a car show and it helps to bring the people in.”
But the influence goes deeper than the surface. In a Salt and Light TV special about Knights on Bikes, Mailloux said there is a unique bond between people who ride, Catholic or not.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, as soon as you meet someone else on a motorcycle, it’s an instantaneous friendship.”
That can lead to conversations about faith with people they may never have had the chance to connect with otherwise.
Raymond Medina, a member of the Knights of Columbus in Fort Worth, Tex., founded Knights on Bikes in 2003 after purchasing a motorcycle and in a moment of pride placing a Knights of Columbus decal on it. When fellow Knights with motorcycles saw it, all wanted to do the same, marking the unofficial founding of the group.
It would become official two years later.
“When Knights on Bikes started, they thought of us as thugs, mugs, and, you know, bad people. But ... we wanted to change everybody’s mindset,” Medina told Shalom World in a documentary.
Now Knights on Bikes participate in charity rides, bike shows, and other creative ways of bringing attention to parish fundraisers and other events under their motto, “In God we trust and ride.”
Canadian Patrick Malloy was on a road trip through Texas when he met the newly founded Knights on Bikes and brought the idea home to Ontario with him in 2006.
The idea caught on quickly in that province and then spread to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and, just recently, B.C. and Quebec. There are now about 200 Canadian members of Knights on Bikes.
Members are finding creative ways to connect their faith with their love of the ride. They have made pilgrimages between churches, praying the Rosary along the way. They have prayed outside abortion clinics. They have escorted the silver rose, a Knights of Columbus tradition that honours Our Lady of Guadalupe, across the country, and have collected teddy bears and funds for children’s charities including in support of cancer research.
They also help other travellers, for example lending assistance to motorists who might be stranded on the side of the road.
There are only eight members in B.C. right now, said Reville. He hopes to grow that number but admits it has been difficult to attract new members during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as rallies and charity events are cancelled across the country. He is hopeful by the time the international Knights on Bikes conference in Louisiana rolls around in 2021, he and many others will be able to make the trip.
Meanwhile, Reville is limited to inviting new members to Knights on Bikes by emailing councils across B.C. and by sporting his black leather vest, with the Knights of Columbus logo stitched on, while cruising the Okanagan countryside.