November 2, 2012

Cyclist kick-starts Catholic motorcycle club to help those in need

Riding motorcycles since he was 17, 50-year-old John Mascari hopes to form a motorcycle club in the archdiocese that will connect Catholic bikers, spread the faith and raise funds for charity. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Riding motorcycles since he was 17, 50-year-old John Mascari hopes to form a motorcycle club in the archdiocese that will connect Catholic bikers, spread the faith and raise funds for charity. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

The inspiration struck John Mascari as the Indianapolis resident roared his motorcycle through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Making a stop at a spot nearly 15,000 feet above sea level, Mascari literally had half of his head in the clouds when the heavenly idea hit him.

“You know how God sometimes puts ideas in your head, and he won’t leave you alone?” says Mascari, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis. “That’s what God did with me that day. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I need to do something to help Catholic ministries. I must have been closer to God in the mountains so he reached down and smacked me. He drove the idea between my ears.”

So began Mascari’s plan to form a Catholic motorcycle club in the archdiocese. He envisions that the club will connect Catholic bikers, hold charitable events that will raise money to aid archdiocesan efforts to help people in need, and even spread the faith in a fun and interesting way.

“My hope is that we do at least one major event a year that benefits the Catholic ministries that help people,” Mascari says. “Plus, if we brought one lost Catholic home or one person to the Catholic faith, we’ve done our job.”

The idea for the club has drawn support and a smile from Ken Ogorek, director of catechesis for the archdiocese.

“The Catholic motorcyclist club has great potential for seeing what St. Thomas Aquinas calls ‘grace building on nature’—taking a naturally fun activity like motorcycle riding and blending it with growth in faith,” Ogorek says. “I encourage motorcycle riders throughout southern and central Indiana to look into the club.”

Mascari will kick-start the Catholic motorcycle club by leading its first meeting at 7 p.m on Nov. 8. in Father Conen Hall at St. Lawrence Parish, 6944 E. 46th St., in Indianapolis. He points to the success of two Indianapolis-based motorcycle events for charity—the Miracle Ride and the Loop for Life—as a road map for building the group. The Miracle Ride raised $350,000 earlier this year for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

“This year, there were 3,000 bikers who rode in the Loop for Life,” he says. “If just 10 percent of them were devout Catholics, we’d have 300 people who would surely ride to benefit Catholic Charities or some other Catholic ministry. My Catholic brothers and sisters who are bikers give generously of their time and their money to these events. I think they’d give of their time and their money for Catholic efforts, too.”

Now 50, Mascari has been riding motorcycles since he was 17. He averages about 17,000 miles a year on his Harley-Davidson, often taking cross-country vacation trips with friends. He views the Catholic motorcycle club as another part of his winding journey of faith.

“I have to be honest. There was a time after I was divorced when I felt I wasn’t welcome at church,” he confides. “But Msgr. [Mark] Svarczkopf—he was pastor of St. Lawrence at the time—told me I was always welcome in the Catholic Church.

“My faith is in my everyday life—how I treat others, how I try to be charitable. If someone is in need, I will give them the shirt off my back. That’s the way bikers are. They’re the Good Samaritans of the world. Bikers stop when someone breaks down on the road. I’ve changed a lot of tires in my day. Personally, I think if Christ was here today, he’d be at every bike rally.”

Mascari also likes to think that God rides with motorcyclists.

“They just enjoy the freedom, the wind in their face,” he says. “God’s in the wind, too. He fills you up.”

As the Catholic motorcycle club gets started, Mascari is counting on God to give him more inspiration.

“God’s thinking, ‘You think you’re done? Your work just started,’ ” Mascari says with a laugh. “As my dad always said, ‘You want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans.’

“But I’m not making the plan this time. He is. I’m just the instrument he’s using. I just hope there are a lot of like-minded people who want to do good. And we’ll have fun, too.”

(Besides the first meeting on Nov. 8, the Catholic motorcycle club will meet the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. in Father Conen Hall at St. Lawrence Parish. For more information about the club, contact Mascari by e-mail at or by phone at 317-345-8010.)

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