PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — The devastation in Ukraine has motivated a retired priest to go on a pilgrimage more than 4,600 miles away from the war-torn country.

Father Thomas O’Neill tells 12 News he’s heartbroken by what’s happening overseas.

“When the troop movements around Ukraine started to increase and spread more and more, when there were conversations about that on the news, something inside me started to churn,” he said.

That’s when the 79-year-old decided to hop on his bike.

“I felt helpless,” O’Neill recalled. “What could I do but pray? I thought what I would do is to get on the bike and go.”

O’Neill visited churches in Warren, East Providence and Providence in hopes that his prayers for the people of Ukraine would be heard.

“I think we pray with our whole body; we pray with our feet,” O’Neill said. “We’re pilgrims on this Earth … it’s symbolic with that.”

“My prayer was a prayer that the Ukrainian people may live in peace,” he continued. “I guess my prayer was answered with a ‘no.'”

O’Neill said what’s happening in Ukraine right now shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the history between Russia and Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian people, in large, have had a lot of horrible experiences under the heel of Russia,” he said. “A lot of them starved in the 30s. Russia took their food. Why would Ukraine want anything to do with Russia based on their history?”

This Lenten season, O’Neill has a message for everyone.

“Use your imagination, I suggest, to think about how you might carry the presence of Christ and the plight of the people of the Ukraine in your mind, heart and soul,” he said.