Clad in leather 'Got Jesus?' jacket, deacon blesses motorcycles in downtown Romeo

Deacon Michael Houghton of St. John Vianney Parish in Shelby Township blesses motorcycles along Main Street in downtown Romeo during the town's weekly “Bike Night” on June 6. Deacon Houghton, who does not ride a motorcycle himself, saw the summer tradition as a great chance to practice some practical evangelization. (Photos by Michelle Samartino | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Deacon Michael Houghton doesn't ride, but he does care that local bikers know the love of Jesus

ROMEO — Amid the roar of dozens of motorcycles riding through Main Street in downtown Romeo were riders who waited to have their bikes blessed June 6.

Clad in his leather vest and shades, Deacon Michael Houghton of St. John Vianney Parish in Shelby Township was there to meet their needs. Downtown Romeo has a “Bike Night” every Thursday on Main Street, but it was the first bike blessing of which Deacon Houghton was aware.

New to the area last year, he experienced Bike Night for the first time last summer. 

“When I saw all of the excitement that it brought to the town on Thursday nights, I decided to ask if they had ever done a bike blessing,” Deacon Houghton said. “They said that they had not, but they were quite interested in doing it. And so we made it happen.”

Bike Nights are held every Thursday in Romeo. Ronald Keine, a member of the Brotherhood of Freedom, Chapter 5, was happy to have his motorcycle blessed by Deacon Michael Houghton.

Although he doesn’t ride a motorcycle, Deacon Houghton added, “I just saw this as a great opportunity to evangelize.”

This particular Thursday was, fortunately, weather-cooperative, with Main Street having more than its average number of bikers riding through town. Deacon Houghton said this was a good thing, being able to reach out to more people.

“It's a good way to bring people to the local restaurants and bars to enjoy the warm summer nights, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Bike Nights are open to all bikers. I truly have no idea how many are Catholic or even Christian, but it doesn't matter.

“All are children of God and all are welcome to experience the joy of His blessing for their safety and for their salvation,” Deacon Houghton said.

Biker Sue Carr also goes by the name of “Stitches” because of the sewing work she does for her motorcycle club, the Brotherhood of Freedom, Chapter 5, in Macomb Township. She used to ride on the back of her husband’s Harley-Davidson, but after turning 60 last year, she knew she wanted to check a box off her bucket list and get her own.

Greg and Sue Carr came to Bike Night in Romeo June 6 to have their Harley-Davidsons blessed by Deacon Michael Houghton of St. John Vianney Parish.
Deacon Michael Houghton and his wife, Anita, said Bike Night provided an opportunity to evangelize and open the door to God for many.

“I like to get on my bike and ride,” Carr said. “God is my co-pilot.”

Carr, who rides a 2016 Softail Harley-Davidson, said, “Riding is a lot of fun and excitement. After a while, it comes naturally.”

Greg Carr, her husband, is known as “Eastwood,” because his looks are similar to the famed celebrity Clint Eastwood, explained Sue, who smiled. He said he wanted to have his bike blessed because it was important to him.

He thinks about God often, and by having his bike blessed, “every little bit helps when you’re riding,” added Greg, who has been riding for nearly 40 years.

Philip Mooney, a member of St. John Vianney Parish, came to support his friend, Deacon Houghton. “We are here to spread the Gospel,” said Mooney, who attended Bike Night for the first time that evening.

Deacon Mike Houghton fit in with his leather attire among the many bikers in Romeo June. 6.
Deacon Houghton speaks to bikers in downtown Romeo.

Anita Houghton, Deacon Houghton’s wife, agreed and also saw the event as a great opportunity to evangelize and reach out to others. “We wanted to bring God into an everyday situation without preaching to them, so that for some of these folks, it’s opening the door for them.”

Bike Night was an opportune moment to practice the missionary outreach prescribed in Unleash the Gospel, Deacon Houghton stressed. 

“A big part of unleashing the Gospel is taking our love of Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith outside of the four walls of the Church and into the public square,” Deacon Houghton said. “It is there where we meet the secular world and it is there that we have the best opportunity to go and make disciples.” 

“If we truly love our Lord and our faith, why wouldn't we want to share it with others? It truly is good news.”