Bikers turn out to ‘Ride with God’ at charity Poker Run

Archbishop leads second annual motorcycle event to benefit St. Luke’s Center

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 Tom Tracy – Florida Catholic

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, right, seated on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and Rene John Sardina of the Chrome Knights Motorcycle Association, left, get ready to roll before the start Feb. 9 of the second annual Archbishop’s Poker Run charity ride to benefit Miami Catholic Charities’ St. Luke’s Center.

PARKLAND | Computer systems engineer Pierre Victor’s Italian-made MV Agusta F4 motorcycle is evidence that almost any hobby or special interest can be an intersection for faith-sharing and raising money for a good cause. 

“I’ve had 13 bikes and this is the best bike I’ve ever owned — nothing comes close to this; everywhere it’s a show-stopper with people taking pictures,” said Victor, whose children attend Mary Help of Christians School here.

Victor was one of the participants at the second annual Archbishop’s Poker Run held Feb. 9 to support Catholic Charities’ St. Luke Addiction Recovery Center, a residential program for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Standing around with some 150 other motorcycle enthusiasts, he and a handful of coworkers from Coral Springs-based First Data company assessed other motorcycles and gave a detailed run-down of the modifications and upgrades to each machine.
“This ride was important to us and it has been very spiritual,” said Victor, a native of Haiti who is active in the Emmaus ministry at Mary Help of Christians Parish.

The church was the starting place for the Poker Run and its opening Mass, both led by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
“A lot of the people we’ve been meeting today are very down to earth, enjoying the ride; it’s very well planned,” said Victor, adding that he seeks out opportunities to be with other Catholic men — and women riders too.

“It creates a brotherhood within the Church being able to speak to each other knowing that if you need someone to talk to you have a ministry brother there,” he said. “One of our weaknesses as men is we don’t like to talk, and one of the things the ministry does is allows (you to) open up your heart and find (consolation) in Jesus Christ and know that there are other guys out there walking your same path.”
This year’s Poker Run was a 72-mile ride from Parkland to Cutler Bay featuring several stops along the way — including Rick Case Honda in Davie, Café 27 in Weston, and Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami — where participants picked up a poker card toward a $500 gift certificate for the winning hand.
Volunteers from local motorcycle associations, parishes and St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami provided logistical help for the day, which began with a welcome reception and Sunday morning Mass.

A motorcycle vest reads “I Ride For Jesus” during the Mass at Mary Help of Christians Church that preceded the Archbishop’s Poker Run.

In his homily, the archbishop told the gathering that Pope Francis recently raised a lot of money for charity by auctioning off a Harley Davidson motorcycle that was given to him last summer.
“Well, I’m trying to help a charity, not by giving my bike away but by using it to raise funds for the charity,” Archbishop Wenski said to the congregation’s amusement.
He also spoke of the futility of a consumerist approach to religion that won’t give God much glory nor bring much relief to the hungry and oppressed.
“Jesus calls us to be salt and light — not consumers of religion seeking what God can do for us; but practitioners of a faith that seeks to act justly — giving both God and our neighbor his due,” Archbishop Wenski said. “We can call ourselves ‘practicing Catholics’ because this life is our one time chance ‘to practice’ our religion until we get it right. But the point is, we must not just be ‘consumers’ of our Catholic religion; rather we must be practitioners.”
Working behind the scenes at the Poker Run was volunteer Elkin Sierra, a junior at St. John Vianney College Seminary, who with other seminarians spends time counseling men and women every Monday afternoon at St. Luke’s.
“We are an ear to hear their story and we try as much as we can with each individual to evangelize them and offer them the hope of Christ during their recovery,” Sierra said. “Many of them are hungry for Christ, from older teens to adults, and they do have questions about Christ and ask us to pray with and for them and how a Christian life can be intertwined with their recovery.”

Jose and Rhinana Suarez of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Doral pose with Father Jets Medina – who enjoyed sitting on the bikes but did not ride – and the Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart who staff Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School: Sister Madeleine Kreps, Sister Rosalie Nagy and Sister Helena Musich.

Funds from the Poker Run will assist St. Luke’s 32-bed facility, in part by helping pay for mental health-related prescription medications for clients with no medical insurance, according to Sandra Valdes, program director at St. Luke’s. She said patients in recovery there often suffer other challenges and need a comprehensive treatment for mental health.
“In order to help them in this journey of recovery they need to be stable and learn about medication management,” she said, adding that she is not a motorcycle rider herself but that St. Luke’s also sponsors a fall walkathon annually to support their 200 patients.
Poker Run participants this year included regional motorcycle riders of Jewish and other Christian denominations as well as a range of longtime riders and less experienced bikers, according to Rene John Sardina, president of the Chrome Knights Motorcycle Association in Miami. At the start of the day, he spoke to the 150 participants about safety and rules for the event. The ride is based somewhat on the well-established annual Key West Poker Run motorcycle charity event.
“It’s like the archdiocese meets rock & roll, and the archbishop will be leathered up like a biker through and through — though he is very eloquent and has a sense of humor,” Sardina said. “People will come up to him and ask for a blessing during the run, and he takes the time and you are able to see that he doesn’t mind. It’s very touching.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski blesses Yolaine Montfort, grandparent of student at Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School.

Katie Blanco Croquet, president of the Archdiocesan Development Corporation, said the Poker Run has quickly become one of the archbishop’s favorite events “because it combines a part of who he is as a person and people get to know him better as they ride their Harleys, one of his favorite hobbies.”

“It lets people know him on that level and at the same time raise funds for St. Luke’s,” Croquet said, adding that the facility is a hidden gem of the community in terms of the great work they do.
“Substance abuse affects all communities and it’s a program offered to those in need of help and it needs support,” she said.
Father Luis Rivero, archdiocesan campus ministry director and a Poker Run participant who was riding his three-wheel Can-Am Syder motorcycle, agreed, saying the Poker Run was a contemporary expression of Christian charity.
Wearing his custom leather biker’s vest which read, “Ride with God,” Father Rivero brought his own father with him this year.
“People have been quoting the Holy Father who has talked about getting out and ‘smelling like the sheep,’ and I think this is a wonderful opportunity to bring together people from all walks of life to help people with addictions at St. Luke’s,” the priest said.

Pierre Victor, a member of the Emmaus group at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Parkland, shares his bike and leather jacket with Carmelite Sister Madeleine Kreps at Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.


2014 Archbishop’s Poker Run

Sunday, February 9, 2014

9:00 a.m.           Starting Point

Mary Help of Christians Church

5980 University Drive

Parkland, Florida 33067

9:00 a.m.             Mass

10:30 a.m.          Kick Stands Up


11:30 am  – Arrive       First Stop

Rick Case Honda

15700 Rick Case Honda Way

Davie, FL. 33331

(24.64 miles/42 minutes)

** Take N. University Drive

Visit Time:         11:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon

12:15 pm- Arrive         Second Stop

Café 27

4690 US Highway 27

Weston, Florida

**Weston Road Route

(5.28 miles/9 minutes

 Visit Time:        12:15 pm – 1:15 pm – LUNCH

2:00 pm- Arrive            Third Stop

Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School

10300 SW 167 Ave

Miami, FL. 33196

 (29.29 miles/ 37 minutes)

**Take US-27 S

Visit Time:         2:00 pm – 2:30 pm


3:00 pm- Arrive            Final Stop

Peterson’s Harley Davidson South

19825 S. Dixie Hwy

Cutler Bay, FL. 33157

 (12.56 miles/ 26 minutes)

**Take SW 104 St

Visit Time:         3:00 p.m. –4:30 p.m.


TOTAL ROUTE:                             71.77 MILES

TOTAL DRIVE TIME:                 1 HOUR, 56 MINUTES