Motorcyclists ask for the blessing ahead of the spring season

George Cunningham knows both the joys and the potential dangers of motorcycling.

Cunningham, 50, from Derry was among nearly 100 bikers who gathered late Sunday morning at Holy Family Catholic Church in Latrobe for the 18th annual Blessing of the Bikes.

“I’m on two wheels so it’s better for the Lord to watch over me a bit now. Surely that can help,” Cunningham said.

Organizers said the event was an offshoot of the large-scale bike blessing conducted each spring in Murrysville which in some years has attracted thousands of motorcycles.

Charlene Nicholson and her husband, Herb, said they wanted to attend a smaller event and, starting in the early 2000s, looked to their home parish to sponsor a blessing of the bikes. For nearly two decades, every spring bikers have gathered in Latrobe for a little divine intervention in search of safety during their rides.

“That first year seven bikes showed up, now it’s between 80 and 90,” Nicholson said. “It’s a way of reaching out from the parish to the community, and we invite everyone of any denomination or no denomination to join us.”

Rev. Richard Kosisko and church deacon Mike Orange presided over the blessings of the motorcycles and their riders. Kosisko, a motorcyclist himself, said he intended to ride his Harley Davidson on Sunday afternoon, if it allowed.

He and Orange walked along the rows of parked bicycles and sprinkled them with holy water.

“Cycling can sometimes be difficult. “When I started riding, my dad told us to watch and ride carefully,” Kosisko said.

Motorcyclists are certainly aware of the potential dangers associated with their hobby.

According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in 2020 more than 3,500 vehicle crashes in the state involved motorcycles that resulted in 3,200 injuries and 217 deaths, a five-year high. More than half of those killed, 53%, were not wearing a helmet, according to the report.

Runners are hoping Sunday’s blessing might just provide a little more protection, co-organizer Herb Nicholson said.

“It makes people feel good, it’s a sense of security, at least it is for me,” he said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Jerry Mikesic of Greensburg, who attended Sunday’s blessing with his wife, Chris. The Mikesics have already attended bike blessings in Murrysville and Altoona this year.

“Everything to keep us safe,” said Jerry Mikesic.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .