This Sunday, a Catholic priest will embark on a 320-mile, 5-day bike ride to recruit young men and women for the Church.
Father Nick Adam had to be creative when he was assigned to be the director of vocations for the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, in the midst of a global pandemic.
“How do I reach people? How do I reach people?” Fr. Adam recalled repeatedly asking himself while the shelter-in-place order was in effect.
Since he had evenings free, he began riding his bike on the Natchez Trace Parkway. He soon realized that the parkway, which connects the entirety of his diocese, could be the perfect solution.
“It checks a lot of boxes. It allows me to connect with a wide variety of people (and) allows me to have a presence on Facebook and Instagram,” Adam told CNA. He is planning to document his trip on social media, allowing anyone to follow along with his journey.
As a former sports and news anchor, Adam has a gift for communication.
“Media and connecting with people in creative ways has always been part of my call,” he said. “I need to embrace those gifts for communication that [God] gave me.”
The priest admitted that bike riding does not come as naturally to him.
“People have looked at me like I’m crazy sometimes, especially because I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I have been training,” he said.
Still, Adam says that the fact that the ride will be a challenge is integral to his mission.
“Just completing something like this shows people that they can strive for something great,” he said. “That’s the Catholic idea, that’s the Catholic project, to bring about the kingdom of God. And it’s going to be hard and it's going to be challenging, and you’re going to want to quit, but with the Lord’s help, you are not going to quit.”
Adam said the trip is also an important remedy for misconceptions that many young people have about the priesthood.
“It shows people that priests are normal people that do normal things and that are capable of physical exertion,” he said.
Along his route, Adam will stop in parishes, meet with seminarians, and celebrate Mass, which will be live-streamed on his social media platforms. He wants to connect with young people, whether that be in-person or over his virtual interface.
Although Adam will stay in rectories of parishes overnight, between Jackson and Natchez there is “no ecclessial place to stay,” and he will instead spend the night at a campground. Young college students and others discerning a call to the priesthood and religious life will camp out with him.
Adam hopes that he can lay the groundwork for “a culture of vocations” in the diocese of Jackson among these young people.
Although it is the largest diocese East of the Mississippi, the Jackson diocese has always been served by mission priests. There were so many Irish priests in the diocese that when he was little, Adam thought being Irish was a requirement for the priesthood. Now most of the missionary priests come from Mexico, Latin America, and India.
“We have very few native Mississippians who are priests for our diocese,” he said. “My dream, and I think our call, is to create a presbyterate that again honors those who have evangelized our communities, but do that by filling our parishes with men who grew up in the state.”
He hopes that this trip, which he calls his “tour de priest,” will encourage young people to enter seminaries and convents in order to discern their calling.
The bike that will take him across the diocese is itself an artifact of several vocations.
“It’s been passed down, I think, from a baptist minister, to a Catholic monsignor, to a Catholic priest, finally to me as a seminarian. I mean, it’s got to be like 20 years old,” he said. “But it’s still rolling.”