Newman Center pastors to have 'virtual' bike race, continuing 35-year tradition of annual fundraising event

Organizers at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center on the UND campus are planning the 2020 Bike Race, with the Newman Center at NDSU, as a "virtual race" this year, due to restrictions on social distancing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Submitted photo

Bicyclists who raise money every year for the Newman Center at UND are not about to let the coronavirus sideline the annual bike race with NDSU’s Newman Center that usually takes place this time of year.

Organizers have planned a “virtual race” between the pastors of each Newman Center, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 25.

The 2020 Bike Race will be streamed live on Facebook Live and YouTube beginning at 1 p.m., said Matt Komprood, a member and part-time business manager of the church. He expects it will run about 1.5 hours, he said.

The Rev. Luke Meyer of the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center in Grand Forks and the Rev. James Cheney from St. Paul’s Newman Center in Fargo will compete on stationary bikes in the social hall at the Newman Center on the UND campus.

“It’s our major fundraiser of the year,” said Komprood.


Changes were made to accommodate social distancing, which has been recommended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s a ‘social-distance bike ride’ – hopefully, something we don’t have to do again,” Komprood said with a laugh.

This is the 35th annual race competition between the two university Newman Centers, said John Goerke, development officer with the Newman Center at UND. “It’s not how we anticipated our 35th anniversary, but we’re making the best out of it.”

The Grand Forks team usually draws more than 100 riders from the Newman Center and the community.

Bicyclists who wish to participate may do so on either Friday or Saturday, April 24 and 25, and ride 25 miles “wherever you want to do them,” Komprood said. They will track their miles using the Strava computer application, he said.

Much of the fundraising has been going on already. Riders generally raise money based not on miles but “just completing the ride,” he said.

A makeshift TV studio has been set up in the basement of the Newman Center, using equipment that has been used to broadcast Meyer as he conducts the Mass over the internet, since church services were discontinued by order of area Catholic bishops, Komprood said. “We’ve just moved everything downstairs.”

The race is available to view on Facebook Live and YouTube by searching “UNDCatholic” or by going to .


Donations are accepted online at any time. For more information, contact Goerke at .

The Rev. Meyer’s pet, Basil, a Bernese Mountain Dog, has his own page on the website, for this event, and has already raised more than $400, Goerke said. “He sometimes hacks into the page and leaves a message.”

The local team is hoping to raise at least $50,000 to help fund the ongoing needs at the Newman Center, Komprood said. Monies raised will be used to pay for operating costs – such as lights, heat and water – and outreach ministry activities, he said.

This year’s revised bike race is an example of how churches and nonprofit organizations are “making the best of the current situation, and not letting it derail us,” Komprood said, and it’s “a showcase of how we’re keeping our UND community together, even if we have to be apart.”

The Rev. Luke Meyer's dog, Basil, has his own fundraising page on to raise money for the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center as part of the 2020 Bike Race. Basil is a Bernese Mountain Dog and his owner is the priest at the Newman Center on the UND campus. Submitted photo

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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