Pedaling for Mary
One of my favorite things about being a journalist is writing about great people who do great things.
One of my favorite things about being a journalist is writing about great people who do great things. I’m especially interested in people who beat the odds and whose stories inspire others.
So, when I came across Chris Pundzak’s story, I knew I had to write about it. Pundzak has beaten the odds, he inspires others, and he is a great person who does great things.
Shortly after birth, his parents were told that he would never achieve what most people consider a normal life. At age 5, Pundzak was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Today, 28-year-old Pundzak is an IT support specialist and volunteers at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (GuadalupeShrine.org) in his hometown of LaCrosse, Wis.
As an avid cyclist, Pundzak has used his passion as the springboard for the founding of Bike to Mary (CMPtoAction.net/btm/), a nonprofit organization “that seeks to draw people to a deeper faith in Christ by promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for Christian living,” according to the website. Bike to Mary’s mission also includes the organization of “Christ-centered activities such as pilgrimages, retreats and educational forums focused on faith formation and Catholic moral values.”
One of those Christ-centered activities is an annual Bike to Mary Pilgrimage, a 200-mile bike ride, extending from Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians in Hubertus, Wis., to the Guadalupe Shrine in LaCrosse. This year’s third pilgrimage will take place June 22-28. Pundzak will lead the pilgrims over the scenic roads of rural Wisconsin, riding by day, with stops for meals in camp or at local parishes, and lodging overnight.
On the spiritual level, each day includes holy Mass and time for prayer and reflection, as well as fellowship. On the practical level, the pilgrimage will raise awareness of the value and often-underestimated capabilities of persons with disabilities and fundraise for the Guadalupe Shrine.
I spoke with Pundzak about how Bike to Mary stems from his love of the Guadalupe Shrine. “My Uncle Mark invited me to volunteer at the shrine,” he said. “I started off in the maintenance department — and then as the unofficial IT guy for the shrine.”
“I get my IT skills from my father, which I am so grateful for,” he added. “I live in a 40-mile radius of my cousins, who are close to me and keep me going. My mom plays a big role in my faith life. My family shows support for me.”
As her son grew, Cecile McGregory was inspired to entrust him to the care of St. Joseph: “I prayed that Christopher would be a faithful Catholic who would lead others to Christ.”
Yes, the story of Pundzak’s drive and faith in God is worth telling.
Marge Fenelon writes from Cudahy, Wisconsin.