The biggest attraction at the 2019 God Squad men’s conference was a colourful, powerful motorcycle. This was no ordinary motorcycle on display. It was a custom-built machine by world-famous Orange County Choppers with a Pope John Paul II theme.
The presence of the vehicle was a good fit for a conference, at St. Peter’s Church, whose theme was Be Not Afraid To Be A Saint. When Pope John Paul II stepped onto the balcony facing St. Peter’s Square in 1978 when he became Pope, his first words were ‘be not afraid.”
Father Mariusz Sztuk, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in High River, will be using the motorcycle to evangelize.
“Sean (Lynn of the God Squad) and I ride with Jeff Cavins (a Catholic speaker and author) every year and I remember Jeff was talking to me one year and he said ‘you need to look at this bike’. I told him I don’t need to look at the bike because I had my own bike.
“When he showed me the picture, then I said ‘I need that bike’. So I got this bike through Jeff Cavins. There’s a lot of stuff that is very Catholic on that bike.”
It has a portrait of Pope John Paul II on its tank. It also displays numerous Catholic symbols such as the coat of arms, the eucharist, Mary and a cross.
“It’s a very Catholic bike. So when you ride the bike people always ask ‘who is that guy on the tank?’ That’s the beginning of the conversation about John Paul II and about Catholics. It is more of a kind of witnessing than anything else. I’m planning to take this to the school and talk to the kids about . . . religion, faith all of that . . . You can take pieces of the bike and talk about certain aspects of the Catholic faith,” said Sztuk.
Sztuk, who was born in Poland, came to Canada in 2001. He has a passion for his faith, for St. John Paul II, who was from his homeland, and of course for motorcycles.
“Since I was a kid I always had a motorcycle. It gives me that relaxation. I can jump on the bike and go,” he said.
The story of the unique motorcycle, which is worth about $110,000, is intriguing.
“There was a lady out in Syracuse, New York who had the bike. It’s called the John Paul II Tribute Bike. It’s one of a kind,” explained Cavins. “It’s very unique that everything about it is related to John Paul II in his pontificate. She knew I was a motorcycle enthusiast and I take ultra rides around the country . . . I went to speak in Syracuse not knowing about this bike. A deacon picked me up at the airport . . . and he said he wanted to take me somewhere and show me something before going to the hotel.
“My first thought was oh no I just want to go to the hotel. I’m tired. Been flying. I’ve got to speak tonight. And he said I think you’re going to be interested. He took me to this warehouse. He showed me a bunch of Bibles in boxes on the wall. I thought, that’s what he wanted to show me? . . . Then he introduced me to the lady and I realized there was a sheet over something. I could tell by the shape of it that it looked like a motorcycle underneath a sheet. They took the sheet off and I was blown away by what I saw. An unbelievably beautiful piece of art. I thought, man I’d love that for a teaching tool.”
The bike was originally commissioned for a church fundraiser. But that never took place, and it was sitting in storage with nine miles on it.
Nine months later Cavins was on a ride with Father Mariusz and Lynn when the woman called him, wanting an answer on if he was interested in buying the bike.
“I looked at Father Mariusz and I knew he would want to use this as well as myself and maybe we could do a joint venture on it where we would both use it, ” said Cavins, adding that he bought the bike for “way, way less” than its value.
Both Cavins and Father Mariusz will be using the bike on both sides of the border for evangelization. It’s a teaching tool. You can stand there and teach many aspects of John Paul II’s theology. His Marian theology. Suffering theology. Eucharist. Don’t be afraid.
Written by Mario Toneguzzi
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers