Bike4Vocations: Pedaling to Find the Missing Priests and Nuns

Bike4Vocations: Pedaling to Find the Missing Priests and Nuns


BIKE4VOCATIONS—As planned, Geoffrey and Fern Greenwell arrived safely at St. Mary Cathedral, Cape Girardeau, on May 7. Pictured were Geoffrey Greenwell, The Very Rev. Allan Saunders, Pastor; The Most Rev. Edward M. Rice, Fern Greenwell, and the Greenwells’ nephew, Gregory. The Greenwells are undertaking a 4,000-mile trek across the US to bring awareness to the need for religious vocations in the Church. They began in St. Augustine, FL, and will pass through 13 states and 20 (arch)dioceses, stopping at parishes, holy sites, convents, and monasteries along the way, ending their journey on the Oregon coast. (The Mirror)

Have you ever wanted to bike across the United States? There are a surprising number of people who accomplish this feat, but most people do it for their own enjoyment or sense of accomplishment. But not Fern and Geoffrey Greenwell.
Over the 33 years of their marriage, Fern has wanted to bike across the United States. She and Geoffrey decided that 2023 was the year to do it.
“However, we felt that it was a bit self-indulgent to just undertake the activity without some consecration or deeper objective,” Fern said. “Given the vocation crisis in the Church, we felt called to consecrate the bike trip across the US to raise awareness of the crisis. And it has really been an act of faith since then, a journey within a journey.”
The Bike4Vocations trek began in April in St. Augustine, FL.
“We will symbolically begin at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche,” Fern said. “The site is where an old Spanish Mission was built and the site of the first Mass offered in North America in 1565.” From April to July, Fern will bike about 4,000 miles from Florida, up through the Midwest, across Montana, and ending on the Oregon Coast. Meanwhile, Geoffrey will drive ahead in their RV to set up camp for the night, then bike back to join Fern for the remainder of the day’s trek. They expect the exposure to the elements will be more challenging than the sheer distance.
“But this exposure may also be the most fruitful part of the journey,” said Geoffrey, “to be out there expending energy to constantly call our attention and prayers to the vocation crisis.”
Passing through 13 states and 22 dioceses, Fern will bike 50 to 90 miles each day, stopping at parishes, holy sites, convents, and monasteries along the way. The Greenwells have received the blessing and endorsement of dioceses along the route. Parishes and religious communities are organizing holy hours “where we will pray quietly for vocations and try to make people aware in a spiritual sense of the problem we face as a community of faithful regarding the real crisis we face in our Catholic Church. We are just pedaling and praying: a spiritual supplication through a physical offering.”

A Stop Planned In The Diocese
Bike4Vocations will pedal through the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Fern and Geoffrey will be joining Bishop Edward Rice and The Very Rev. Allan Saunders, pastor, in St. Mary Cathedral, Cape Girardeau, on Sun., May 7, for Adoration 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., closing with Benediction; Bishop Rice will hold his “Meet me at the Grotto” Rosary at 6:30 p.m., Sunday evening. On Mon., May 8, there will be 8 a.m. Mass with students of St. Mary Cathedral Catholic School. The Greenwells will spend about 20 minutes in church with the school kids after Mass.
“This bike ride across America will also focus on history and follow a trail of explorers, missionaries, and converts,” the Greenwells said. “It is a discovery of the Catholic faith in America and how communities of faith contributed to the moral fiber of a nation. It is a pedaling pilgrimage looking for missing priests and nuns in our nation.”
By offering up their love for cycling to the Lord, the Greenwells are trusting that the Holy Spirit will work through their passions and pursuits to bring about the good of God’s people.
“We are remaining open and being holy opportunists,” said Geoffrey. “We are seeing how relationships develop and how ‘cause and effect’ will open doors. We have faith that there will be enough receptivity by others to create a widening space of awareness of this crisis. But it really is a lesson in cooperation with God.”
Working in public health and poverty statistics, Fern and Geoffrey have lived all over the world including in Texas, Washington DC, Romania, Rwanda, Switzerland, Moldova, and France. Fern’s parents retired to Tucson in the 1980s, so they were often visiting Arizona. Fern went through RCIA at San Xavier del Bac Mission in 1988 and the Greenwells were married at the Mission in 1990. The Greenwells moved to Arizona in 2017, and now live west of Tucson in Three Points, and are active in St. Mary of the Desert Mission Church there. They are also active at Santa Cruz Parish where Fern is a Third Order Discalced Carmelite.
As a statistician, Geoffrey understands what numbers to look for in statistics. Their fervor for vocations took off after reviewing some staggering data about the reality of vocations in the United States:
• Since 1970, the number of vocations has decreased by 54%.
• 34% of priests are considered inactive (retired or infirmed).
• This leaves about 1,300 souls to which each active priest ministers.
• Since 1970, consecrated women have dropped 78%. “There are about 16,000,000 Catholic men
between the age of 18-40 in the US,” Geoffrey said. “Out of these, we propose that 0.5% or about
80,000 men have vocations to the priesthood. We are looking for the missing 80,000 priests. We
estimate at least 210,000 missing vocations among women.
“Male/female ratios in census data across the world indicate that there are on average 0.5% more men than women in the 20-35 age group,” said Geoffrey. “This is a providential ratio that, if properly tended, represents a reserve of excess men that should be especially sensitive to the Holy Spirit calling and available for service in the Catholic Church.”

Pray For Vocations
Fern and Geoffrey urge each of us to pray for vocations. They suggest this simple addition after your meal prayer: “From this bounty, call our sons and daughters to be gifts of grace offered to nourish the spiritual needs of Our Church, through Christ our Lord.” The Greenwells believe this simple prayer would bring about more vocations. “God is that generous,” they said.
Though they’d been dreaming of this trek for decades, God’s timing is perfect. “The Church has been undergoing a period of reflection called Synodality. The metaphor is that we are journeying together as a Church,” Geoffrey said. “In this sense, this bike trip represents a personal opportunity to understand our Church in this spirit of synodality. Between Florida and Oregon is a continent of wonderful Catholic history and experience. Hopefully we may discover something about what a consecrated life means to different people.”
Fern and Geoffrey are taking a leap of faith, trusting the Lord to work through this 4,000-mile trek to cultivate and inspire men and women to serve the Lord with their whole hearts.
You are invited to follow Fern and Geoffrey on Twitter @canonlaw233.
“We selected that handle in reference to Canon Law 233 which states: ‘The duty of fostering vocations rests with the entire Christian community so that the needs of the sacred ministry in the universal Church are provided for sufficiently. This duty especially binds Christian families, educators, and, in a special way, priests, particularly pastors.’”
You can stay tuned to their blog at https:// or contact Fern and Geoffrey by emailing

Published in the April 28, 2023 issue of The Mirror.


Carissa Krautscheid