By LINDA M. LINONIS
Answering the call of the road, they ride motorcycles mostly for pleasure trips and sometimes convenient transportation.
They don’t fit the stereotype of hard-living bikers, though they often wear black in their line of work.
For them, heading out on the highway is an avenue to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of God’s creation.
The Revs. Greg Maturi, Stephen Popovich and Joseph Rudjak are priests who ride motorcycles as a hobby.
Father Maturi of St. Dominic Church rides a 1993 Kawasaki ZX-6; Father Popovich, a 2011 Suzuki Boulevard; and Father Rudjak, a 2006 Harley-Davidson Softail.
“I’ve been riding since 1980,” Father Popovich said. “Some friends had bikes and I thought it would be a nice hobby.”
Father Rudjak, who also started riding in 1980, said he remembers his first encounter with a motorcycle — at the Packard Museum in Warren in 1947 when he was 3 years old. “I always wanted to ride,” he said, adding that he also has friends who ride.
A relative newcomer to riding, Father Maturi started in 2004. “The freedom and being closer to nature was appealing. It’s nice feeling the wind,” he said.
Father Maturi said he and his fellow priests had experienced or conducted motorcycle blessings. “It brings people together as a community. ... You feel the fellowship.”
Father Maturi said the “Book of Blessings” contains a passage often used at a motorcycle blessing. It reads, in part, “Christ the Son of God came into the world to gather these who were scattered. Whatever contributes to bringing us closer together is in accord with God’s plan.” The blessing also mentions “grant we pray that those who use this vehicle may travel safely with care for the safety of others, whether they travel for business or pleasure.”
Jesus provides the example of extending a hand of friendship, Father Rudjak said. “There is friendship among bikers.”
The priests said the motorcycle blessings also provide a chance for them to encourage safe and defensive riding along with asking that travelers be safe. “I wear bright colors,” Father Popovich said, adding he encourages all riders to do the same. Father Maturi noted he wears a leather jacket with padding, heavier pants and boots.
Father Rudjak said he also wears a leather jacket and helmet. “I’ll wear that until I understand what I’m doing,” he said with a smile. “I remember being told to drive defensively. ... Now I see the wisdom in that.”
The three motorcyclists said they generally ride alone or sometimes with friends. “We work weekends,” Father Rudjak said tongue-in-cheek. It’s sometimes hard to find fellow riders for weekday trips, he said.
When they’re out on the open road, there is a “free spirit to it,” Father Popovich said.
“I feel closer to God and nature,” Father Rudjak added.
“It’s a good time to reflect and pray,” said Father Maturi.
The priests said riding motorcycles provided “relaxation” from the demands of priestly duties.
As for the cost of the motorcycle hobby, the priests said it was a matter of “saving up” just like laypeople.
“Any hobby takes time, talent and treasure,” Father Popovich said.
“My hobby helps my spirit,” said Father Rudjak.
Father Maturi said he sees his motorcycle as efficient transportation, though he doesn’t use it all the time. But it gets 60 miles per gallon and is easy to park.