Ministry on motorcycles in Cuba

Hitchhiking priests are common in Cuba. Cars are expensive and hard to acquire, so ministers must get creative with parish visits. Some spend hours on local transit. Some spend precious pesos on taxis. Others hitch rides and some just walk.

A motorcycle can be a gift of mobility and freedom for a busy Cuban priest. VIBRAGIEL ON FLICKR
A motorcycle can be a gift of mobility and freedom for a busy Cuban priest. VIBRAGIEL ON FLICKR

Motorcycles are a great help to these travelling ministers. That’s why the outgoing General Secretary, Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, decided to raise money to buy one  instead of accepting a retirement gift when he left General Synod this fall.

“The needs in Cuba are so great,” he said. “If we can get one more motorcycle down there, that will mean one less cleric will have to rely on someone for a ride all the time.”

So far, General Synod staff members have given $1,000 towards a Cuban motocicleta, which costs around $1,500 and is usually imported from Asia. Now others can help buy this motorcycle-and maybe more motorcycles—through the Gifts for Mission online gift guide.

Mr. Pollesel has seen firsthand how useful motorcycles are, even though he has not (yet) ridden one himself. He visits Havana annually as secretary to the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, the church’s governing council, composed of leaders of the American, Canadian, and West Indian Anglican churches.

“Motorcycles are cheaper than cars to buy and maintain,” he said. Motorcycles can also carry several people at once, he noted, and can be brought into houses at night for greater security.

This is not the first time that the Anglican Church of Canada has offered a ministry of transportation to Cuba.

In the mid-1980s, Canadians gave the Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba six cars, including a sky blue Russian Lada, which, after dozens of repairs and upholstery jobs, is still being used as a taxi, ambulance, and construction truck.

Earlier this year, the Cuban church was given a brand new Peugeot van, thanks in part to generous donors from the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Pollesel helped the bishop navigate Cuban bureaucracy to buy this vehicle. First, Cubans must request a license from the government. Then they wait several months for approval and then must comb through the limited options; there are only a few lots that sell new vehicles.

Yet the work and investment pays off. Like those iconic 1950s Chevys that crawl Havana streets, the church’s Lada, Peugeot van, and motorcycle will be repaired and loved into long lives. They will move ministers for decades and decades to come.

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