Pedaling Mercy on the Streets

June 3, 2019

By Sister Libby Fernandez

When the United Nations decided to declare June 3 World Bicycle Day as “a symbol of human progress and advancement promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitates social inclusion and a culture of peace,” they had no idea that we would use our bikes every day to promote just those ideals through a new ministry in MERCY.

Sister Libby pedaling through the Sacramento streets. Photo via Create + Gather
Sister Libby pedaling through the Sacramento streets. Photo via Create + Gather

As a Sister of Mercy for over 29 years, I have been given the opportunity to create an innovative ministry called “Mercy Pedalers.” We are all volunteers full of passion and desire to connect with our most vulnerable men and women experiencing homelessness in Sacramento, California.
We use bicycles and tricycles to reach out to those we encounter on the streets, sidewalks, alleys and parks. It is a ministry of presence and action based on the “Works of Mercy” and emphasizing “Welcoming the Stranger.”

As Fr. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic theologian, once said: “Welcoming a stranger is not to change the person, but to offer the person space where change can happen.” It takes time and commitment to build a sense of trust between the Mercy Pedaler and the person experiencing homelessness.

Once trust is established and the individual has a sense of their own dignity and worth, then the Mercy Pedaler can build on the relationship and offer resources that may help the individual get off the streets.

Sister Libby serving a cup of coffee to one of the people she meets on her Mercy Pedalers route. Photo via Create + Gather
Sister Libby serving a cup of coffee to one of the people she meets on her Mercy Pedalers route. Photo via Create + Gather

Every morning as the sun rises, I pedal down K Street and approach someone just waking up, packing their bags and getting ready to move on from where they slept that night. Usually, they sleep under a business doorway or on the sidewalk next to an office. As I approach, I say “Good morning. I am Sister Libby, a Mercy Pedaler, would you like a good hot cup of coffee?” Often the person smiles and says, “Oh, how wonderful, I would love a cup of coffee with a little cream and sugar!” I then ask the person’s name and inquire if there is anything else I can help them with for the moment. I carry nutritional bars, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, and even socks, hats and gloves.

I meet over 100 homeless men and women daily as I pedal downtown. Some, I have known for over a month and we are now beginning to develop trust and genuine care between us. As I said goodbye recently to one woman and told her that I wish her well and that maybe I will see her tomorrow, she said, “I hope so, because you are my friend.” She then reached out and gave me a hug!

Sister Libby speaking with a man she met while pedaling her route. Photo via Create + Gather
Sister Libby speaking with a man she met while pedaling her route. Photo via Create + Gather

Although it’s a new ministry, begun September 1, 2017, there are now more than 75 Mercy Pedalers. We pedal and connect currently in the city and county of Sacramento, including downtown, midtown, the Alhambra corridor, Broadway and East Sac, Arden-Arcade and Carmichael, for those who know the area. As the ministry grows, more neighborhoods and areas will be reached. Just think, maybe you, too, can start a Mercy Pedalers Team in your town!

Visit our website to learn more about us: www.mercypedalers.com


For more great stories like this, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

Share This Story

Comments (14)

Add A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. D.Gilmore

    Wonderful ministry! Good, old fashioned caring for those in need! Prayers and support!


  2. Mary Pendergast

    Libby, this is fantastic work, thank you!


  3. Carolyn

    What wonderful creativity (God’s gift) to invent a tricycle that carries a pantry too! A gift to the pedaler & the homeless!!
    God bless the ones that do this much needed ministry!


  4. Carren Herring

    Wish I were younger and able to do this.


  5. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM

    What an innovative idea! Thanks for sharing.


  6. Martha Meyer

    Thanks so much, Libby, for sharing your beautiful story of Mercy. I am so proud!

    Blessings on you and all those you reach out to.

    Martha Meyer


  7. Eileen O'Connor

    Libby ~ How wonderfully creative and how very Mercy-ful it is! Thanks so much for sharing this lovely ministry! Blessings. Eileen O’Connor


  8. Madeline M. Cipriano

    Wonderful ministry! Thank you for your creativity and mercy!


  9. Hannah-Mary oDonoghue

    Great & much needed ministry, Libby. Thanks. God bless you & all the pedalers.
    I’m in the process of putting Mercy Pedalers on our parish website (St. John the Evangelist, Carmichael.) Hannah-M. o’Donoghue


  10. Adele Dunnigan

    Libby I am truly inspired by your ” Mercy Centered ” ministry. Your inclusion of all of our brothers and sisters living on the street is offering shelter and warmth from the cold. Thank You Adele Dunnigan, Mercy Associate, Burlingame Ca


  11. Kathy Schongar

    Love this! What a great idea. I


  12. Anna Marie Lesutis RSM RN

    What a heart to heart encounter that salutes the dignity of each person met.Thanks for the challenge, Libby. Nancy Lesutis


  13. Dayle Peterson

    God bless your ministry…….living out the Gospel of love?


  14. Lori Pinkerton

    Happy Trails Sister Libby! Keep spreading the love. I’m sure it comes back to you ten-fold!