Talk about your holy rollers: Father Adam Cesarek, joined by Father Tom Otto and Father Michael Pica, stopped in Pontiac Wednesday along their tour de Illinois. Informally called “Priests Peddling for Prayers,” the tour sees the trio joyfully trying to spread the Catholic faith through the Peoria Diocese by bicycling through all its 26 counties, from the Quad Cities to Danville — about 320 total miles to traverse.

    Coming in from Route 66, the three were greeted like rock stars in the parking lot of County Market, where a throng of students from St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s Catholic schools waited to greet them — often on bikes of their own. Cesarek, an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church, said the idea’s inception came from the other priests, who double as his friends, so that they might better serve a higher power.

    “There’s 26 counties in Central Illinois that the Diocese of Peoria oversees,” he said.  “My buddies proposed the idea to me about four months ago. They said, ‘How about we ride through the whole Diocese of Peoria,’ which is from the Mississippi River all the way over to Danville and the Indiana state line. We’d always been really into cycling, so we thought we’d use that to get people interested.

    “So we’re zigzagging through 26 counties through Illinois, stopping at parishes, stopping at schools and all these different places, just as a means to get people excited for our faith.”

    Cesarek noted that, in modern times, shepherding adherents into the flock was much more challenging than it was in yesteryear, so he and his fellow fathers thought that they would try a different approach.

    “The reality is that a lot of young people are not that into the faith anymore,” he said. “So we come up with this as a way to get them excited and a way to promote living holy lifestyles from here on forward, so we’re stopping at all of these parishes and schools to visit with young people, and visit with old people, whatever stage of life people are at. And, actually, it’s been a whole lot of fun, and I’ve just been blown away by all the support we’ve gotten.”

    Cesarek said they started in East Moline Monday morning and had snaked their way into Pontiac by Wednesday. He called the Wednesday weather “a blessing,” because forecasts had predicted “some really awful stuff” that they’d have to be out traveling in on their journey that day.

    The St. Mary’s curate said he’d been training for the tour since February, which he recalled was a very nice month weather-wise for him to do so, and that prepped him and his padre compadres for days like Wednesday — in which they biked for more than 100 miles.

    As much fun as he’s had spreading the faith, Ceserak readily admitted how grateful he was that there was only around 120 miles left.

    “We’re over the halfway hump,” he laughed.

    Cesarak was grateful for days like Wednesday, though, being surrounded by his hometown flock and supporters, which reminded him of why he was doing the tour.

    “I love this community and I love this town,” he said. “I told the guys, I said, ‘If we’re doing this, we’re coming to see my people in Pontiac.’ This place is undoubtedly home, and to see this place on our ride keeps it in perspective what it means to be out here.”