A priest walks into a motorcycle club. Don’t bother reading further if you’ve heard this one before. Then again, if you know the Rev. Lou Vallone, perhaps you’ve seen it happen. The pastor of St. John of God in McKees Rocks and St. Catherine of Siena in Crescent is a man of many gears. A master scuba diver, a self-proclaimed barbecue expert — and a man of God. But above all else (under the heavens, that is), Father Vallone prefers to sit back, rev up his full-dress police edition 2003 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Standard, turn up the tunes and take on some two-lane blacktop. Two hours on the bike, he says, is better than a three-day vacation. “Being a biker is who I am. Who I am is who I put out there to my people. Who I am is who God chose to use as his instrument,” says the 67-year-old who sports a short gray ponytail off the back of his head. “So if anything positive’s coming from it, it’s because it’s an authentic thing and it’s not a gimmick. What you see is what you get.” Father Vallone was 14 years old when he first rented a 50cc motorbike and rode it through a county park. “That had me hooked,” he said. Despite some disapproval from his parents and his superiors in the clergy, there was no making a U-turn by the time he was ordained by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1973. “The diocese wasn’t overwhelmingly pleased with it,” he said. “I’m not sure of whether it was a perceptual issue or whether [the bishop] figured he invested 12 years of education in me and didn’t want to lose it too quick in a motorcycle accident. But the diocese has never been completely at ease with my being a biker.”
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