Cyclists highlight poverty - Catholic Courier

Cyclists highlight poverty

On July 27, a group of cyclists from the Diocese of Rochester began a local leg of a statewide trek designed to call attention to the plight of the impoverished in New York and around the country.

The statewide bike ride from Lockport to Albany — which involved participants from the dioceses of Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany — was scheduled in support of a nationwide bike trip called Brake the Cycle of Poverty. Sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, that event began in San Francisco, Calif., on June 1 and will end in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 1.

Since the national tour is not passing through upstate or western New York, Ruth Putnam, who coordinates the Works of Love program for Catholic Charities in the Rochester Diocese, organized the local support ride. In February she began planning the ride through the diocese, which began in Brockport July 27 and ended in Auburn July 29.

On each day of the ride, participants stopped at various sites in Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca and Cayuga counties to learn about local efforts to break the cycle of poverty. Scarlett Emerson, parish and community development director for Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, helped Putnam organize stops for the riders in Wayne, Cayuga, Seneca and Ontario counties.

Cyclists were in high spirits after the July 27 portion of the ride, which began in Brockport and ended at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates.
“I particularly enjoy riding for a cause,” said Donna Walker, a parishioner of St. Margaret Mary in Irondequoit.

Walker noted that before the ride began, the group attended a Spanish Mass at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, where migrant workers who had assembled there raised their hands to bless the cyclists before they set off.

Putnam said the ride is a perfect tie-in to Catholic Charities’ year-long focus on poverty and its consequences.

“I have no illusions that this ride will make a dent in poverty,” she added. “I think it will start a conversation about poverty and it will take a lot of work to keep that going.”

Many of the stops the riders made along the way were at facilities that have received CCHD grants, according to Marvin Mich of Rochester’s Catholic Family Center.

Seventy-five percent of funds donated to CCHD — an anti-poverty, social-justice program organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops — goes to the national office in Washington, D.C., to support projects designated at the national level; the remaining 25 percent stays in the diocese to be divided among local organizations, said Mich, who noted that it has been his task this year to choose recipients of local CCHD grants. One recipient, the Farmworker Women’s Institute in Newark, arranged a dinner for the riders on the night of July 28. The institute provides a place for female migrant workers to come together and establish a sense of community, Mich said.
On the afternoon of July 28, riders stopped at Pittsford’s Saints Place, a food shelter Putnam termed a perfect indicator of “poverty in the midst of affluence.”

As the riders pedaled through the City of Rochester July 28, they stopped at such facilities as St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, Women’s Coffee Connection and Catholic Family Center. On July 29 the riders on their way to Auburn stopped at Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes and several parishes. Along the way, riders heard about how various organizations are attempting to end poverty.

About 20 bicyclists participated during each day of the ride, with most of them heading home at the end of the trip July 29. But one man, 47-year-old Jay Reeder, a parishioner of St. Anne Church in Rochester, traveled on to Albany. Reeder, an avid cyclist, planned to deliver a message about poverty in New York and suggestions for reducing it to Gov. George Pataki.

“I want to gain a perspective on the poverty in our area,” said Reeder. “It really is a cycle and you just have to break it.”

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