Fr. Larry Chapman, pastor of St. Peter Parish, East Troy, has a unique way of spending his free time.

For the past 20 years, he’s ridden his bicycle at least seven miles a day, rain or shine.Fr. Larry Chapman, pastor of St. Peter Parish, East Troy, pedals with parishioners during “Pedal with Padre,” Saturday, May 31, a going-away celebration that parishioners threw to recognize his 12 years of service to the parish before he moves on to shared administrator at St. Sebastian and St. Catherine parishes, Milwaukee.

When parishioners learned he was leaving to become shared administrator at St. Sebastian and St. Catherine parishes, Milwaukee, they threw him a going away party, celebrating his favorite pastime.

On May 31, more than 150 parishioners joined Fr. Chapman in “Pedal with Padre,” a celebration that included walking and bike riding, with hundreds more joining for music, games and food.

According to party organizer Sarah Halbesma, the event recognized the priest’s 12 years of service to the parish.

“Fr. Larry has brought St. Peter’s to life,” she said. “He has such a positive energy that follows him wherever he goes. He has given so much of his time to our school and parish, and has helped us in ways even he will never understand. When Fr. Larry walks into a classroom, the children’s faces just light up. He takes the time to listen to all of our school children’s stories and asks questions so they all know how important they are to him.”

Originally, the event was to be a “Parish Fun Day” as a means to build social connections as well as adding a fundraising aspect to the day. When it was determined that Fr. Chapman would leave St. Peter in June, co-principals Halbesma and Ashley Schmidt transformed the event into a farewell party.

“It was so nice to see everyone coming together in celebration of Fr. Larry’s time at St. Peter School,” said Halbesma. “The volunteers were amazing, and included the St. Peter School staff, Knights of Columbus, parish members and school parents. It was such a great community building event.”

For parishioner Darren Cherek, the event was a great way to recognize Fr. Larry and all he has done.

“There was plenty of family fun for all that attended, including food, refreshments, music and games for kids of all ages,” he said. “Fr. Larry will be missed greatly, but the work he has done here will be carried on in the future.”

Though Fr. Chapman is an experienced rider, he didn’t do as well as expected while riding with 25, 4- to 8-year-olds.

“When the horn blast sounded, off we pedaled,” he said. “I am embarrassed to report that I came in sixth place, but had to remind myself that this was a ride, not a race.”

The event was as fun for the adults as it was for the children.

“It was great riding with my friends and Fr. Larry,” said Ella Rondeau, 12, “I loved the whole event.”

In a similar way, Fr. Chapman rode with older children and then the adults, with the party finishing around 10 p.m.

“We remembered so many good times that God blessed us all with over these years,” he said. “There were no tears on this occasion – those will certainly fill my eyes later. The event meant so much to me and this is a memory of the heart that will last into eternity.”