Iron Deacons: Bikers share the Word of God

April 30, 2013

HOUSTON — On a crisp, cool, fall day, the distinctive roar of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle pierces the air as a Roman Catholic deacon from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston pulls up to a prison parking lot. The deacon, a founding member of a local motorcycle club in Houston called the Iron Deacons, is going into a prison to bring the Gospel and the mission of Jesus Christ to the prisoners there.

The idea of motorcycle ministry is certainly not a new one, but according to Deacon Don Senger, Iron Deacons member and manager of Parish Preventive Maintenance in the construction department of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Iron Deacons have a new and fresh approach. 

"It is unusual for any Roman Catholic to minister from motorcycles, much less ordained Catholic deacons but, to club members, it makes a lot of sense," he said. 

Deacon Senger said the club ministers not only to those incarcerated, but also to youth ministries and patients and staff in hospitals.
"There are currently seven ordained deacons, their wives and some friends that ride together," Deacon Senger said. "We have almost 30 members and are open to more. Although the club was formed by deacons, it is open to laity as well."

In 2008, Deacon Joe Hensley decided to combine his love of riding with his love of the Word of God. He met with (now) deacons Gus Camacho and Sid Cammeresi and they decided to form a new motorcycle club named the Iron Deacons.

The three deacons formed their mission to extend the bonds of brotherhood that bikers share to the body of Christ, and to destroy those Catholic "myths" that are "out there." The mission also includes bringing the Word of God, His Son incarnate, to those who may otherwise be searching and/or lost.

The Iron Deacons Motorcycle Club is open to those willing to do these four things:

1. Accept the Apostles Creed as a document and statement of faith.
2. Promote Catholic ways of social, pastoral and communal philosophy and teachings.
3. Be available to anyone who asks that they pray over them, bless them and/or their bike.
4. And above all be DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, in spreading the Word of the Gospel and making it available for all to hear and by evangelizing by example and, if necessary, using words.

With their mission set, they began bringing their message of love, hope and the Word of God to everyone, including prisoners. The club grew over the next few years to include six ordained Catholic deacons, their wives, some of their friends and associates.

"God calls us to sometimes go where others may not tread, and to be His face and presence where it is not always expected," Deacon Hensley said. 
Members are notified of rides or events via the web, and anywhere between 11 to 20 riders will join in to bring the Word of God to whomever will listen. Their rides include trips to College Station, Plantersville, Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, Galveston, Needville, Houston, Richmond, Texas City, Rosharon and Huntsville. 

Deacon Senger said most of the members of the club heard about Iron Deacons through word of mouth, and people wishing to join typically join them in rides.

"They usually ride a few rides with us and then they decide whether or not they want to become members," he said.

While there are no membership dues, Deacon Senger added, "Each full member buys a set of the ‘colors,' which consist of a large Iron Deacons patch, which shows a motorcycle with three crosses and a bolt of lightning. In addition, each patch has a smaller ‘rocker' patch worn above the large patch which states: Iron Deacons. A lower rocker patch then goes under the main patch which states Houston, Texas. These are sewn on the back of a leather vest or can be on the back of a jacket, etc. Each member purchases their own patch set." All brands of motorcycles are welcome.
Deacon Senger said most of the lay members are either Catholic or Christian from other denominations, and they all agree to be examples of the Gospel and to believe in the full body of Christ's Church. 

"When we are in a group, we pray together and usually end up talking to others around us," he said. "We have been asked to pray for people or to bless motorcycles."

The members keep decals that go on the motorcycles they have blessed that state "This Bike Blessed, In The Name of The Father, The Son And The Holy Spirit, By A Catholic Deacon."

The club said it would like to present an honorary member, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, with a leather vest with its club colors on the back. Members have voted to give Cardinal DiNardo the road name, "Big Red."