A report by Markus Sell
PEACE-RIDE® 2019 – a mammoth task successfully (almost) ended
Three years „pregnant with an idea”, 12 months intensive preparation, in total almost 4000 kilometres route, a Harley unique with 300 gold-plated parts and 600 litres monastery beer. Those who think this does not match, are wrong. As this were the most important ingredients of the PEACE-RIDE®, that the CSLI-comrades Dr. Thomas Draxler and Markus Sell have long planned before and carried out with their JESUS BIKERS. An extraordinary peace ride to the Holy Father, that came to an end at the St. Peter’s Square in Rome on July 7th.
It was a strange feeling on this hot Sunday in Rome. The Jesus Bikers spent hours at St. Peter’s Square at 40 degrees heat waiting for the Angelus prayer of the Holy Father that will only take some minutes. Afterwards the Harley-sponsor Christoph “Chicken” Repp officially handed out the bike with documents and key to Father Karl Wallner, the Austrian MISSIO-National Director. After some embraces and farewells everything was suddenly over – the PEACE-RIDE.
For a long time everybody has worked towards this and was looking forward to this event and very quickly the nine days on the streets of Bavaria, Austria and Italy are gone…………………
The journey in fast motion
The PEACE-RIDE started – like every trip of the JESUS BIKERS – with a prayer in the private chapel of Thomas Draxler on 29th June. But this time it was more extensive because also the Mayor Reinhold Hehmann came to adopt the group. There were also a lot of neighbours and citizens on the streets in order to give a warm farewell to the participants.
Again and again there were people at the streets towards Aschaffenburg who waved to the group and wished a good journey. The first stop was at the Franciscan Community of Bethany in Aschaffenburg. Here the transporter and a refrigerated trailer filled with the monastery beer “Mönchsgeheimnis” developed by Father Alberto waited. After a farewell mess and blessing of the vehicles the journey officially started with media attention and participation of some neighbours of the monastery.
In Hettstadt near Würzburg the most valuable freight was loaded: The Harley-Davidson already signed by the Holy Father in May, the “white unique” as it is lovingly called. Due to the months of media attention concerning this bike sponsor “Chicken” finally decided to add a “Pope-Style”for self-built Harley-bikes to his product range so that he can create a similar type of bikes for solvent clients. But never a bike like that one for the Holy Father!
After a short stop over the journey continued directly to the first stage – the Street Mag Show at the truck stop Strohofer at Geiselwind.
The owner and organizer Manuela Strohofer impatiently waited for the biker. It was a sunny day and she and the bikers took part in an “outdoor mass” at the “Mariengrotte” with the Harley of the Pope. Also some visitors of the festival of the legendary US-Oldtimer and Rockabilly-weekend were present. The musician program was carried out by the Jesus Biker Band JBB consisting of: priest Johannes Matthias Roth (vocal, guitar, piano), Stefan Stumpf (vocal, guitar), Markus Sell (vocal, keyboard), Jutta Draxler (vocal, percussion).
2nd day: Altötting
Approx. 300 kilometres to the South East of Upper Bavaria to one of the famous places of pilgrimage in Germany: Altötting. Here the idea for the PEACE-RIDE raised up three years ago when Thomas Draxler met Father Pavel Kruczek, member of the 200 “God’s Guards” – a Polish priest who founded his own motorcycle-club.
Today the circle has been closed and Thomas was finally able to present the idea of a “Pope Harley” developed at that time to the Director of Pilgrimage, Prelate Mandl in real life and to the present representatives of the local press. In remembrance of this meeting three years ago Thomas rided with the “white unique” around the chapel that is well-known for its famous “Black Madonna”. During the evening mass at Magdalenen Church the Harley could stay representatively in the church aisle. During the convenient get-together at the Franciscan House the Jesus Bikers passed the first two days in review and they worked on improvements concerning the division of the groups and their styles of driving.
Because the 40 tons-vehicle of the HD-Würzburg Village could not pass the small villages, they decided to load the Harley into one of the transporter that was originally intended for transporting the luggage. Therefore a direct access should always be possible in order to show it quickly to the local visitors. At the same time it was a great challenge for the group concerning the transport of the luggage and the logistic details.
3rd day: Stift Heiligenkreuz
A special and important day for the CSLI-comrades Thomas and Markus: Not only that the Jesus Bikers should help to shape a mass at the Theologian University of the Zisterzienser-Abbey Heiligenkreuz that would be seen live Europe-wide on TV. The organizers of the PEACE-RIDE were extremely happy about the announced visit of a CSLI-delegation. Wolfgang Steinhardt also took the opportunity to brave the heat in a Summer uniform and to visit the participants of the PEACE-RIDE with 5 further comrades and the director of the Music Corps Friedrich Lentner and four musicians. This was a special highlight.
After they admired the motorbike and talked with many Jesus Bikers and the Harley-Team Würzburg they took part in a Holy Mass emotionally and unforgettable celebrated by Father Johannes Paul Chavanne.
His sermon contained great praise for the courage and the commitment of the Jesus Bikers to go modern and unconventional ways in order to bring peace and to do good like the Holy Father always wants and asked his National Directors to be courageous and different. The music program of the mass which was shown live on channel EWTN was carried out by the Jesus Biker Band JBB and the wind quintet of the Music Corps of the Lazarus Union. Our particular thanks go to Friedrich Lentner and his four musicians for the solemn music program of the mass.
After the mass a sudden and heavy storm with heavy rain made however the welcome reception almost impossible but after the long heat this rain was a welcome refreshment. In the steamy air some CSLI-comrades enjoyed the monastery beer “Mönchsgeheimnis” – this and yellow PEACE-RIDE scarfs were the presents. Then everybody went to the restaurant of the monastery and the evening came to an end with a great meal and interesting talks.
Wolfgang Steinhardt suggested the group membership of the Jesus Bikers within the CSLI. Meanwhile this was officially confirmed with a decree from our General Plenipotentiary Prof. DDr. Lothar Gellert. A great honor for the Jesus Bikers!
4th day: Klagenfurt
Today the decision was made to take country roads instead of motorways and so to enjoy Lower Austria, the “Steiermark” and “Kärnten”. The group arrived via Semmering and Mürzzuschlag in cooler conditions. The raining clothes were needed for the first time half an hour before reaching Klagenfurt.
Meanwhile the accompanying press team tried to reach that this not only would be a rainy day to relax around the “Wörthersee”. So we had another press event and we could show the “Pope-bike” at the Harley-trader in Klagenfurt who is the number one in this industry. Until all Jesus Bikers arrived the priest Johannes who was in the first group killed the bad mood with some of his songs. The evening came to an end after some hours of storm in the hotel restaurant and everybody was looking forward to continue the journey to Italy.
5th day: Padua
We passed the Julian Alps along the Slovenian border to “Bella Italia” and the weather became more and more better. On our way to Padua we stopped at Pordenone, the place of birth of our beer brewer and Franciscan Brother Alberto who could now embrace his beloved mother after a long time. A police escorte accompanied the group to the “Park of the 4th November” where the Mayor has already prepared a reception with representatives of the press and members of the located Franciscan Community.
Interested people admired the Harley and they had taken photos with the bike and the wishes for peace. They enjoyed the “Mönchsgeheimnis” as well as the Italian version drawn directly from the cask by the local Franciscan Brothers. Due to 40 degrees heat and 180 kilometres remained to be driven the cold beer was only intended to watch at.
After the friendly reception we continued our way to Padua where again we were surprised by a heavy storm.
In the evening most of us visited the old town and took part in a mass at the Basilica of Saint Antonius. Generally everybody was happy about Pizza, Pasta and Dolce Vita. It was a warm sunny night and the evening came to a convenient end on the terrace of the Hotel.
6th/7th day: Assisi
This was the longest part of the tour of about 400 kilometres in brutal heat. For some bikers the route became much longer because they drove on country roads and the group decided to visit Rimini in order to see the sea at least once for a short time.
Thomas and Jutta had a guardian angel when their rear tyre bursted near the motorway services and not at full speed on the motorway. Therefore they had to continue the journey by car.
The stop over at sea compensated for the horror and some people jumped into the waves to cool down before they continued the journey towards Assisi. The magic of Assisi fascinated everybody. It has been a good idea to spend another day here on the trail of Saint Franciscan and to enjoy the beautiful old town on the mountain with its churches, lanes and magnificent views.
But the second day again started with a little glitch: In spite of having a date for a guided tour through the basilica all Jesus Bikers were precisely frisked because of their wild appearance and their leather clothes by the Military Police. This took approx. one hour. But the guided tour compensated for the waiting time. We were speechless and happy due to the location of the city among the Umbrian hills and the aura of the city.
Press officer and co-organizer Markus Sell later said in a newspaper interview: “In Assisi I arrived at the PEACE-RIDE. On this day all burdens concerning preparations that lasted for several months passed away and I started to look forward to the real journey.”
Brother Alberto and Brother Maurizio celebrated an emotional mass in the chapel of the basilica and afterwards we had enough time to explore Assisi on our own and to walk through the small lanes.
In the evening the “White unique” was shown in front of the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli. Many numerous visitors had taken photos with the bike accompanied by the music of the Jesus Biker Band JBB and bought our tour scarf for a donation.
8th/9th day: Rome
After 180 kilometres we could finally say: “Benvenuti a Roma”!
Just before the town all participants met at the last motorway services and driving in convoy we entered the holy city. This was very impressive!
Approx. 40 bikes, a trike, three transport vehicles, one of them with a refrigerated trailer and the lorry of Harly Würzburg.
We were emotionally very upset so that we lost our way in the rush-hour and we zigzagged through the town but finally we reached our hotel located in a more noble residential area on the hills of Rome.
After a short break for a shower we continued our journey across the town to the other end of Rome where Father Karl Wallner waited for us at the Pope Basilica San Paolo Fuori le Mura. Here he celebrated a very emotional mass with Brother Alberto and Brother Maurizio.
At the end of this ceremony the completely tired but overjoyed Jesus Bikers lined up for a group picture in front of the altar. With passion they sang the classic song “Country Roads”. Surely no visitor has ever dared this in the second main catholic church behind the St. Peter’s Basilica: Singing a worldly hymn at the grave of the apostle Paulus. But one could see the joy about the healthy arrival in Rome from the shining eyes. Although everybody was tired and got some wounds the joy and appreciation could be seen from the faces. At this moment we were full of joy.
For the most of us the evening came to an end at the “Ristorante La Vittoria” having good Italian food. Somebody still knew the restaurant located directly next to the Vatican while staying here in May.
We went quite early to bed to be prepared for the great final at St. Peter’s Square. It should be a long and hot day.
Early in the morning a first group transported the Harley to St. Peter’s Square. As in the previous month we experienced the Italian bureaucracy in discussions lasting for hours with the police and the armed forces. Although we were known from the last audience we were not allowed to enter St. Peter’s Square. In front of the military barrier (but within the range of St. Peter’s Square) we had to set up a small altar where we could present the bike to the visitors of the Angelus prayer and could give information to the local press.
The other Jesus Bikers were also not allowed to enter St. Peter’s Square. This meant that everybody had to drive to the Pope’s Basilica, had to park their bikes and had to turn back to the Vatican by taxi.
Long hours of waiting at 40 degrees in the shade had its effects. Until the Angelus Prayer started we were all completely soaked in water. But we were happy when we saw the Holy Father at his window to welcome thousands of believers and to pray with them.
After the official part we were allowed to push the “white unique” to St. Peter’s Square. Christoph “Chicken” Repp symbolically handed out the keys and the documents to representatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies. We took a lot of pictures, then we embraced each other happily and said “Arrivederci”. The PEACE-RIDE has now officially ended.
Some of us directly went back home, a greater group divided the tour up into 2 or 3 sections via the Toscana and the Lake Garda. Our just married Jesus Bikers Maggie and Yilmaz (they had married a week before our tour began) started their honeymoon.
On the way back there was another shock moment. The tyre of a trailer exploded on the motorway during the rush hour. Parts of this tyre struck our brother Stefan at full speed. This would have gone almost bad but like a miracle he could control the bike lifted in the air and could bring it to a halt. The bike was totally damaged but he and his wife were not injured.
Conclusion: Nine days of driving, praying and celebrating – that forms a community. This makes people to learn, to cope with things, to feel with others, to share joy and suffering. We had to handle difficult situations and we had to go to our limits – sometimes even further. We emerged from this impressive journey stronger than before and hope to keep it in our hearts and minds and to let it live on!
How to go on
The bike is now back to Hettstadt at Harley-Davidson Würzburg Village. Freshly polished it will be kept safe until the auction in October.
Currently the contracts with the third largest auctioneer in the world will be concluded: The Company Bonhams in London will be responsible for the marketing area and the acquisition of solvent clients in order to get the greatest possible profit at the auction where only luxury classic cars and bikes will be auctioned. For this purpose a delegation of the Jesus Biker will go to England to this auction. Our main task is now performed. We hope and pray that the profit will be generous so that we can meet the desired requirements of the project plan in Uganda. Here we want to make sure of the regular use of the money for the orphanage. There was a wonderful completion of the Peace Ride and a great honor together with the memorable 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon:
On July 20th 2019 the Jesus Bikers received their official decree of group membership of the CSLI by the General Plenipotentiary DDr. Lothar Gellert. We are overjoyed about this honor and task we accept with joy and humility. Many thanks to our appreciated friend Wolfgang Steinhardt for his impulse to ask for the group membership and thanks to Lothar for the admission and the unbelievable confidence.
For further photos see www.peace-ride.eu Text: Markus Sell, CSLI/SOF Schaafheim, Press Officer of JESUS BIKER® International Photos: Reinhold „The Matrixer“ Blaha & René Pinto Gonҫalves