While most Catholics throw around the phrase “redemptive suffering,” one group of young people is quite literally offering up physical suffering for the pro-life movement.
Biking for Babies engages pro-life missionaries to bike across the country during a week in July in order to raise awareness about pregnancy resource centers that help women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies, according to Executive Director Nikki Biese. Biese visited Franciscan University of Steubenville on Feb. 4 to recruit missionaries for this summer’s ride.
With the motto “Renewing the Culture of Life, one pedal stroke and one pregnancy resource center at a time,” Biking for Babies sends out bikers and a support team from four locations. Biese explained that the teams meet in St. Louis, Missouri, after forming a cross in their combined routes to symbolize covering the nation in prayer for those women considering abortion.
“People don’t know that pregnancy resources exist,” explained Biese. “By engaging this pro-life generation, we use that to show the world that the pro-life movement is about love and lifting up women and empowering them to rise above their situation and to know that they have options.”
Over 2,400 miles are covered by the bikers, who meet up in Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio and Mississippi, said Biese. With bright yellow jerseys and painted vans, they make the trek across the country and encounter people along the way to whom they can evangelize regarding the pro-life movement.
“We provide people an opportunity to be active in their pro-life beliefs,” said Biese.
It’s different than the typical year-long missionary commitment, explained Biese, because it’s adaptable for the college lifestyle. Biking for Babies usually has about 20-30 missionaries who join the teams in March and receive formation, connect to resource centers and fundraise by means of online video conference calls. Missionaries only have to be present for that one week in July during which they bike.
The teams usually cover 600-800 miles total, biking for eight hours a day. However, Biese emphasized that potential missionaries shouldn’t be intimidated at the idea of biking across the country.
“You don’t have to be a triathlete; you don’t even have to be a biker,” she said. Even if people haven’t biked before, “we believe in redemptive suffering. … It becomes about physically saying ‘I need you Lord, this is not me.’”
Missionaries also have the option to be part of the support crew that drives in the van and intercedes for the bikers, said Biese, in a very Marian role of putting the riders’ needs first.
Along the way, the missionaries have seen many conversions to the pro-life cause. “People they encounter along the way see what it’s like to be pro-life,” said Biese. “People are inspired by the young pro-life generation.”
Biking for Babies is celebrating its 10th year since its founding by two college students who took to heart Pope St. John Paul II’s warning: “Woe to you if you don’t succeed in defending life.” It has only recently become a full-blown mission organization rather than a volunteer organization.
Biese, who was a missionary in 2012 and whose husband rode in 2011, said she’s been involved on the volunteer team ever since, coordinating the routes. Four months ago, she said God called her to give up her job and commit to being a full-time missionary with Biking for Babies. Since then, she has dedicated her life to spreading the mission and recruiting missionaries to Biking for Babies.
“It exists to show the world that we’re going to live our lives to the fullest and put our bodies to the test,” she said.
Applications for this summer are due March 1. More information can be found at bikingforbabies.com.