Follow Luke Henkel, Program Manager at Laudato Si’ Movement, North America, on his inspiring eco-friendly cycling journey from Chicago to New York. Discover his personal reflections, challenges, and environmental commitment in his reflection.

My Catholic faith has been my compass on this incredible journey towards environmental stewardship and sustainable living. It’s been a ride filled with both challenges and heartwarming encounters with fellow travelers. I couldn’t have done it alone, and that’s something I’ve come to appreciate deeply.

Help and heartaches along the journey:

On my second day of biking, the blazing sun was relentless, with temperatures soaring to a scorching 110 degrees. To top it off, I fell on a shade-less dirt road in the middle of a corn field, and my bike bag clips snapped clean off…I was in a predicament, desperately seeking relief from the sweltering heat. I eventually found a bike rack at an office nearby.  That’s when I crossed paths with a woman in a van. 

She took one look at me and said, “Hey, that bike rack is private property, you know?” I must’ve shot her a bit of a glare because I was feeling pretty frustrated. But then, I decided to share a bit about my journey, saying, “I’m biking all the way from Chicago to New York because of my Catholic faith.”

Luke begins his journey pedaling through the Indiana heat.

And you know what she said? She looked genuinely surprised and replied, “Well, I volunteer for my kids’ Catholic school.” We made an immediate connection. Eventually, she said “you look like you could use some water and a break. Come on over to our office, we have air conditioning and even a shower.” It’s moments like these that remind me of the goodness in people and the grace of God in unexpected places.

Luke rests at the St. Francis Inn in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Now I’m in Philadelphia, where the temperature soared to a scorching 99 degrees. While I can afford to take breaks to escape the heat, I’m always mindful of those who can’t. I’m currently staying at the St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen in Philadelphia’s Kensington area where I used to serve the poor and homeless. Being here it’s clear that some people can’t take this break. Yesterday several people called the ambulance just to get an air-conditioned ride to the hospital to get out of the heat. They have no other option.

A journey across ecosystems and relationships: 

It’s not all hurdles; I’ve met fellow travelers who share my passion for environmental stewardship and justice-based actions. At the Eastern Continental Divide of all places, I bumped into this other cyclist who was on the reverse journey from New York to Chicago. He was all about advocating for union workers and had even spent some time in rural Pennsylvania.

He shared something that stuck with me. He said, “You know, it’s about creating a biking culture where people slow down, ask questions, and genuinely connect with one another.” It’s such a contrast to the hustle and bustle of isolating oneself in a car in the city, where nobody has time to chat or be curious about your adventures amid daily routines. Meeting people like him along the way has reinforced the value of connecting with others, even when you’re on the less glamorous roads.

Last week, as I crossed into West Virginia, I was greeted by some awe-inspiring sights. Biking through the Great Allegheny Passage was like a dream. The lush forests, pristine rivers, and occasional cities provided a stunning backdrop. I camped along the way. Waking up to breathtaking sunrises and blankets of fog was something I’ll treasure forever. I could hear how happy the birds were. The area was alive with nature. 

This brought me back to a conversation I had with another cyclist who was biking across the entire country. He had this profound insight: “If more people could start their days like this, taking in the beauty of nature, we’d probably have fewer problems, both in terms of the environment and society.” It really made me think about why such moments are often seen as extraordinary.

Luke admires the sunrise over the Potomac River in Paw Paw, West Virginia. “It was quite enough to hear the fog sliding across the waking waters…,” Luke remembers.

Embracing the Season of Creation through life-style:

Taking on this journey during the Season of Creation has been incredibly meaningful. It’s heartwarming to know that people worldwide are embarking on similar endeavors during this special time. Each morning, I set my intentions for the day and hold in my thoughts those who may be facing difficulties. It’s a beautiful way to live out the Season of Creation, keeping these prayers in my heart as I pedal along. It’s what keeps me going, even when faced with many challenges during any given day.

If you’re thinking about living a more eco-friendly, faith-driven life but aren’t sure where to start, here’s wisdom inspired by the Buddha who shared something like this: 

“Focus your energy on what you love, rather than dwelling on what you dislike.” 

Find your passion, no matter how quirky it might seem. If you love worms, start composting. Don’t worry about changing everything. Begin small, and do what you can and what you know is right. Instead of worrying about what feels impossible to change, channel your energy into actions that resonate with your heart. You do it because it will brighten the darkness just that much, and that’s what really matters. That’s where the true journey begins.

Wondering how to begin your own Season of Creation journey? View the events, guides, and opportunities available to you here!