Catholic Priests And Seminarians Will Bike 1400 Miles to Promote Vocations To Priesthood

As a way of raising awareness for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, two Catholic priests and three seminarians will embark this Monday for a 29-day, 1400-mile journey from the Cathedral of Saint Augustine in Florida. They will pass through 15 dioceses/archdioceses, including a stop at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, before ending at the Cathedral of St. Agnes in Rockville Centre.

  • Priests are from the Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre.
  • They will be joined by seminarians from the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre.
  • Their 29-day, 1400-mile journey will begin in Florida, passing through New York City before ending in Rockville Centre.

Father Marc Swartvagher, a Brooklyn-based priest who serves as academic dean for Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston, will be biking with Father Joseph Fitzgerald, Director of Vocations, Diocese of Rockville Centre, who was also a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Handball Team. They will be joined by seminarians (men studying to become Catholic priests) Dominik Wegiel from the Diocese of Brooklyn, Stephen Rooney from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Steven Diaz from the Archdiocese of New York.

Passing through 11 states, 10 dioceses and 5 archdioceses, the biking pilgrimage will begin on May 17 in Saint Augustine, Florida, and conclude on June 14, a week prior to the ordination of priests at the Cathedral of Saint Agnes in Rockville Centre, New York. Information on their stop at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in the Diocese of Brooklyn will be made available in the coming weeks.

“Many people are asking why we are biking up the East Coast when we could just drive,” said Father Swartvagher. “We believe there is something unique about the physical and sacrificial element of biking to our pilgrimage. Our mission is one with physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions. We feel strongly about our task to promote vocations, and we truly intend to give our all, including physically, to this journey.”

“The objective of this biking pilgrimage is to give glory to God by encouraging vocations and inviting the local Church to respond to Jesus’ missionary call to ‘make disciples of all nations,’” said Father Fitzgerald.

Those wishing to find out more and to follow the Biking 4 Vocations team on their journey can visit There will be daily updates and GPS tracking, and will also contain up-to-date information on welcoming events in each diocese they bike through. The team will cover a range of 13 to 85 miles each day depending on conditions. In addition to the physical component, there is a spiritual component as well. Priests and seminarians have a commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours five times a day. The team will make periodic stops en-route in order to pray.

The Biking 4 Vocations Team:

Reverend Marc Swartvagher
Father Marc Swartvagher is a priest for the Brooklyn Diocese and teaches Philosophy to the college seminarians at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation. As a native of Queens, New York, he has a love of the city and urban apostolate that defines his ministry. In the eighteen years since his ordination, Father Marc has had the opportunity to work with many young men as they discern the action of God in their lives. Father Marc is glad to be part of this pilgrimage and prays it will inspire many young people to prayerfully consider how God may be inviting them to deeper discipleship in the Church.

Reverend Joseph Fitzgerald
Father Joseph Fitzgerald was ordained on June 9th, 2007, and his first parish was Saint Kilian in Farmingdale, New York. Father Joe then spent four years as the Chaplain at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School and Hofstra University and is currently the Vocations Director of the Diocese of Rockville Centre assisting men discerning the call to priesthood and journeying with them as they draw closer to ordination. Father Joe was selected to the 1996 Olympic Team and represented the United States in Atlanta, Georgia, where the team placed 9th overall, and then spent a short time playing professionally overseas in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Seminarian Stephen Rooney
Stephen Rooney is a college seminarian studying for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He attends Saint John’s University and lives at the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Queens, New York. He grew up on Long Island and his home parish is the Parish of Saint Joseph in Garden City. “In the summer of 2015, I will be biking up the East Coast in order to help individuals hear their call from God,” said Rooney. “As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said, ‘The world offers you a life of comfort. But you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.’”

Seminarian Dominik Wegiel
Dominik Wegiel is 22 years old and currently a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He grew up in Maspeth, Queens and his home parish is Holy Cross. He entered the seminary after graduating from Stony Brook University with a degree in Applied Math and Economics. “I’m going on this Biking 4 Vocations pilgrimage because Christ calls us to be fishers of men, and I am inspired to follow that call by biking up the East Coast to set the hearts of young men and women on fire to find their vocations, some to the priesthood and religious life,” said Wegiel. “Christ called me, so I have a duty to do the same for others.”

Seminarian Steven Diaz
Steven Diaz is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of New York studying at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, in Douglaston, New York. He was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and graduated from Washington Irving High School in 2007. “Learning about the real presence of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, along with the grace that comes from the mercy of God through Jesus Christ (in the Sacrament of Reconciliation), is what inspires me to be Jesus’ priest someday,” said Diaz.