07/24/13 2:30pm
07/24/2013 2:30 PM

FILE PHOTO | Riders from last year’s Bike for Life during a quick break in Rocky Point.

A priest, two teachers and a group of students pedal bikes down the road … No, this isn’t the start of an potentially offensive joke. Instead, this is exactly the sight to be seen across the North Fork this weekend on Main Road or Sound Avenue.

The 27th annual McGann-Mercy Bike for Life, in which students from the private high school cycle from Port Jefferson to Orient Point, will take place over four days beginning Thursday morning. This year, the riders include 15 current students and alumni, two teachers, three support staff, and of course, the school’s chaplain, Rev. Gerald Cestare.

The trip across the North Fork is about more than exercise. The Bike for Life also incorporates a spiritual aspect for the Catholic school students.

Each day of pedaling ends at a local church where students engage in activities and talks, giving the weekend more of a retreat feel. The discussions revolve around teaching students about living a wholesome life as they grow older, building up their school community, dealing with the pressures and worries of high school, cherishing their faith and sexuality.

Riders kick off the trip in Port Jefferson and will travel along 25A and Route 48 until they reach St. Patrick’s Church in Southold, where they will spend the night. On Friday they will continue to Orient Point Beach Park, where they will have a beach barbecue and then circle back to St. Agnes in Greenport for the night.

On Saturday they will ride to Sacred Heart Church in Cutchogue, and then on Sunday they will travel back from Sacred Heart to Port Jefferson for a closing Mass at Infant Jesus Church.

The event is sponsored by McGann-Mercy Campus Ministry.

intern@timesreview.com

07/27/12 7:00pm
07/27/2012 7:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO |  The riders of the 26th Bike for Life take a quick break in Rocky Point during their 120-mile journey.

Dozens of students set off from Port Jefferson Thursday morning as part of a McGann-Mercy tradition: the Bike for Life.

The 26th Bike for Life ride across the North Fork will continue this weekend, as Rev. Gerald Cestare, chaperones, and students bike about 120 miles over four days.

The group biked to Southold Thursday and will be taking an afternoon ferry from Orient Friday to continue their journey in New London, Conn. The group will then bike back to the ferry and ride to their starting point in Port Jefferson.

The trip begins with each student thinking of a “struggling point” to take with them on the trip and reflect on, Father Cestare said.

“Basically the idea is to get them out on the bikes to push them physically, to have a retreat once we get to the parish that pushes them mentally, to have an experience of community which pushes them emotionally,” he said. “The hope is that the experience will help them to grow.”

Each night the students will hold themed dinner nights with different discussions about topics like social responsibility, sexuality, and faith starting up after dinner.

The group was relaxing Thursday afternoon at St. Patrick’s Church in Southold after a morning bike ride from Port Jefferson through a summer storm. The riders’ shirts, each one bright orange with the words “Bike for Life” inked on it, lay hanging on a railing while the students played frisbee on the lawn.

“It’s just a mix of everything,” said Jarred Robins, who went on the ride two years ago. “Friends, spiritual, it’s just a great time.”

Father Cestare said he is glad he can help the riders experience “God’s love,” adding the students teach him as well.

“I look forward to this every year,” he said. “What these young people do is nothing short of restoring my faith in people.”

psquire@timesreview.com