Holy Thunder

This article was posted on: June 1, 2022

A weather prediction is being made for Sunday, June 5. There is a 100 percent chance of hearing thunder in the air at St. Bronislava Parish in Plover. Last year, holy thunder was heard despite the weather being in the mid-80s with no rain in sight. The thunder was the roar of more than 30 motorcycles leaving on the second annual St. Bronislava Parish’s Motorcycle Blessing and Faith Run. This is an enjoyable countryside tour of nearly 100 miles.

The idea for this event started three years ago when Father Ed Shuttleworth, pastor of St. Bronislava Parish, and a group of volunteers took part in a service pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. Their trip, organized by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers (lourdesvolunteers.org), provided assistance to the seriously ill and disabled people who were visiting this Marian Shrine, famous for its healing waters. Their efforts involved pushing wheelchairs, helping with meal serving, etc.

Father Shuttleworth joins in blessing riders as they begin the motorcycle rally weekend in Lourdes.

It also happened to be their big motorcycle rally weekend and the organizers knew that Father Shuttleworth rode a Harley. He was invited to take part in the Bikers’ Mass and blessing of the motorcycles.

Father Shuttleworth figured, “If they do it at Lourdes, we should try and do it in Plover.” Thus, 2020 began the first year of what he hoped would be an annual tradition. Also, due to COVID concerns, the parish was looking for things to do that weren’t indoors and could easily be distanced. The bike ride was a perfect fit.

Last year’s second event started with the blessing of the motorcycles under the church carport by Father Shuttleworth and Associate Pastor Father Brandon Guenther. Father Guenther rides a BMW motorcycle and is known to record his rides. He has a helmet camera and microphone and refers to spiritual reflections during the rides. Father Guenther is now on his second associate pastoral assignment, serving three parishes in the Chippewa Falls area: Notre Dame, Holy Ghost and St Bridget.

During the blessing, Father Shuttleworth reminded participants that a blessing is an opportunity to give thanks to God. “Today, we give thanks for the enjoyment motorcycling brings to our lives,” he said, “in particular, the beauty of God’s creation we witness on the open road and the friendships that are forged by riding together.” The blessing was also an opportunity to pray for a safe riding season. Following the prayer, each motorcycle passed under the carport where Father Shuttleworth and Father Guenther sprinkled the bikes and their riders with holy water.

Bikers get ready to leave from their midpoint break at Iola car show grounds.
Father Shuttleworth and Father Guenther blessing riders as they leave from St. Bronislava Church.

The ride began with a traffic assist from the Plover police, as everyone headed east on Plover Road to County Highway B. The scenic route took the bikers through Shantytown and Galloway and through some beautiful rolling hills and winding county roads. They made a “pit stop” at the Iola car show grounds and enjoyed refreshments provided by St. Bronislava Youth Ministry. The riders got a chance to stretch their legs and enjoy the comradeship of meeting new and old friends.

The final leg of the run passed through Scandinavia and Amherst on the way back to Plover. In all, it was a very enjoyable ride through the countryside. The bikers even got a second “sprinkling” as they passed close to a farm irrigation pivot arm system near Amherst!

Duane Kieliszewski has helped Father Shuttleworth as ride coordinator for the holy thunder ride the past two years. Duane has been an avid rider for more than 40 years. He works full-time in Stevens Point but also works part-time for Bull Falls Harley Davidson of Wausau as a technician and rider coach with the Harley Davidson Riding Academy. Since 2004, he figures he has taught more than 900 people how to ride. “Riding is a spiritual freedom and helping people realize that same feeling is why I like teaching others to ride,” said Duane. “I love sharing my love of riding with others.”

When the group returned to St. Bronislava Church, they were treated to a meal by the St. Bronislava Knights of Columbus Council 13880. They enjoyed jumbo hot dogs, barbeque, several fixings, refreshments and ice cream for dessert. The riders spontaneously took up a collection, which was used for local Knights of Columbus charities.

St. Bronislava Parish members Carol and Lester Austreng of Plover participated in their second Motorcycle Blessing and Faith Run last year. “I know a few people here,” said Lester. “We’ve been riding since before we were married.” Lester and Carol have been married for more than 50 years.

If you were born to ride and would like to join in the holy thunder at the third annual St. Bronislava Parish Motorcycle Blessing and Faith Run at 1:30 p.m. on June 5, 2022, visit the parish website at stbrons.com. Further event details will steer you in the right direction.

Story by Gary Oudenhoven
Published in the May/June 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine
Featured photo: Father Shuttleworth joins in blessing riders as they begin the motorcycle rally weekend in Lourdes.

Another ride worth noting is the 8th annual Christmas in July charity ride to be held on Saturday, July 23. Every July, this ride starts from Bull Falls Harley Davidson of Wausau and proceeds to the Marshfield Children’s Hospital. The ride is led by Santa himself riding his Harley with many of his biker friends bringing thousands of toys and hundreds of smiles to the children. Santa hopes to see you in July. HO! HO! HO! For more information or to donate to this worthy cause, visit their website: christmasinjulycharitywi.com. Faceboook users search for
@christmasinjulycharity or visit their event page: fb.me/e/2iUtQKSpS.

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La Crosse, WI 54601

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