Don’t let the black leather biker vests fool you. Robert Burneisen, Matt Goreczny and Chris Wolfgong wear theirs for inspiration, not intimidation.
Emblazoned on the back of their motorcycle jackets is the bright yellow emblem of the Knights of Columbus, a longtime Catholic fraternal organisation dedicated to charity and evangelisation. The large cross stitched above the logo further cements the spirit of the riders.
“I feel that when I’m out there riding around with this jacket, this is who I am. I’m not a Hells Angel. We’re here to do good things, spread the word of Christ,” Wolfgong said.
The men are members of Knights of Columbus Council 385 in Oil City, and are the founding members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Knights on Bikes, an international organisation dedicated to improving the image of bikers and promoting safety and Christian values.
Established in the US in 2005, Knights on Bikes has chapters in 41 states. Besides the Diocese of Erie, only two other dioceses in Pennsylvania have an active Knights on Bikes group. Members must be Knights of Columbus who are willing to spread the Catholic faith under the motto: ‘In God we trust and ride’.
“In a way, we’re fishers of men,” said Goreczny, president of the Pennsylvania chapter. “It’s a visible sign.”
Wearing their faith so publicly isn’t anything new for Knights, who often don the colourful regalia of the organisation at special Masses. Knights on Bikes simply uses motorcycles as another means by which to evangelise.
Goreczny’s bright yellow Honda Magna was spotted in the spring by a little boy travelling in a car with his father. Goreczny was wearing his Knights on Bikes vest.
“The dad told me that his son said, ‘Look, there’s a biker guy!'” Goreczny said. “The dad said, ‘Yeah, but he’s a good guy.'”
The Oil City-based group takes monthly rides together and is looking forward to visiting parishes in the Diocese of Erie. Wolfgong, who serves as president of the Erie Diocese chapter, hopes to organise service projects, while reinforcing the Knights’ dedication to charity, unity and fraternity.
“We’re trying to change the old, negative biker image to something a little more positive,” says Wolfgong, who at age 37 is among the youngest members of the Oil City Knights council.
A retired state police trooper, Burneisen, 53, is vice president of the Knights on Bikes’ Pennsylvania chapter and has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 15 years. The organisation, he said, carries moral weight.
“For me, it’s a lifestyle,” Burneisen said. “Even at work, you take on an ethical role in society. Being a Knight helps you be a Catholic role model.”
Picture: Matt Goreczny, Chris Wolfgong and Robert Burneisen, front right, are founding members of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Knights on Bikes. (CNS photo/Mary Solberg, FaithLife).