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.”