National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Knightly Chivalry, Youth-Style

BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN

July 1-7, 2007 Issue | Posted 6/26/07 at 9:00 AM

 

Not every teen and young boy from 10 to 18 years old is immersed in TV or video games. Those in the Columbian Squires, the youth organization of the Knights of Columbus, are busy learning Knightly ways of spirituality and service.

In Mount Angel, Ore., for example, the Squires of Father Emmanuel Clark Circle 4729 helped at a fundraising dinner for Father Charles Taaffe’s three local homes for unwed mothers and helped a small order of nuns around their convent.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Fla., the Squires of St. Marcellin Champagnat Circle 3877 at Christopher Columbus High School raised more than $2,000 for autistic children and their families and for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

An international list would be long enough to wrap around a cathedral. During 2005, close to 30,000 Squires forming nearly 1,500 “circles,” mainly in the United States, Canada and the Philippines, gave $269,801 for charitable works and 388,830 hours of service to the Church and to their community.

Numbers only hint at the real story, which is what the Squires (online at kofc.org) accomplish for Christ.

“They were hard workers when they worked here,” says Sister Mary Immaculate of the Sisters of Reparation for the Sacred Wounds of Jesus, referring to the Squires who raked and cleaned around her Portland, Ore., convent.

Nor could she help notice the way boys served dinner to the sisters. “They’re very respectful young men, especially at the dinner,” she says. “I was impressed by the way they behaved.”

These same Squires regularly set up decorations, serve as waiters and help clean up at the different fundraising dinners for Father Charles Taaffe and his foundation, which runs three local homes for unwed mothers.

How does David Mayer, who at 18 just finished his term as Chief Squire, see the efforts? “We had the privilege of helping Father in such a great cause,” he says. He also points out that, in whatever their project, “You become a role model to the younger guys.” One is his own 10-year-old brother, John, who became a Squire in January.

Their father, Jeff Mayer, sees the Gospel taking root in his boys. He also appreciates the Squires’ promotion of religious exercises, such as retreats, to which they invite friends and non-members. “It’s important for boys to be exposed to that,” says Jeff Mayer.

Supporting vocations is another service commitment Squires make to follow the footsteps of the Knights of Columbus. Leading the way is Msgr. Thomas M. Wells Circle in Germantown, Pa. This year alone, Squires raised and donated $3,000 for several seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

Joining older Knights, the Squires attend vespers with the seminarians in fall and spring, and help cook and serve them everything from a barbeque to desserts during three fraternal visits a year to seminarians.

“When most of the guys I know are thinking only about school, sports, cars, electronics and recreation,” says 16-year-old Chief Squire Greg Pfister, “my father, the Knights and my faith have taught me and my fellow Squires how to give of our talent, time and treasure to charity and fraternal support of our future priests. It is a faith and life lesson I will take forward into manhood.”

Some efforts take on special meaning, like the commitment the Bishop Timothy J. Harrington Circle in Worcester, Mass., made to Jonathan Slavinskas, a first-year seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s. He was their first chief Squire.

“We said we’ve got a guy right here in our own circle going for the priesthood, so let’s get materially behind him in order to enable him to become a priest,” says chief counselor John Bianchi. Most of the money came from collecting empty beverage cans, as did the $100 the same Squires gave to the local food pantry.

Defenders of Life

Another prime Squires activity is promoting respect for life from conception to natural death.

“They’re learning the pro-life message early,” explains Bill O’Brien, program coordinator for Squires at the Knights of Columbus Supreme headquarters in New Haven, Conn. “Every Squire should be exposed to this and encouraged to do something along the pro-life lines.”

In St. Albert, Alberta, when Dean Pasternak of Brother Anthony Kowalczyk Circle 4759 was provincial chief Squire last year, he heard pleas from the Knights’ pro-life chairmen in Alberta-Northwest Territories for funds to buy demonstration models of unborn babies in stages of development. He brought the request to his circle.

Squires hopped on the bandwagon, selling pro-life calendars in their own Holy Family Parish. They raised $1,650 this year. Naturally, the chairmen got the baby demonstration models.

Dean’s dad, Maurice Pasternak, the circle’s chief counselor, had reason to beam about the Squires. “They come across their own ideas and they decide on what they want to do,” he says. “They do the planning and the organization, and they complete the projects.”

For Dean, the results were happy for the Squires’ efforts. “It was satisfying promoting life and saving potential lives,” he says, “so others would have the chance to live.”

Enhancing life and spirituality in many ways is a hallmark of St. Marcellin Champagnat Circle at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, from celebrating Mary’s month of May by organizing a living Rosary for the freshman class, to helping those in exceptional need.

A typical example happened when the 70 Squires got together a grand total of $1,500 for autistic children, but decided to divert it to help Hurricane Katrina victims. Starting again at square one, they sold soda at the school dance and got donations to raise another $1,000 to split between families with autistic children. On top of that, they raised $1,000 for the local Missionaries of Charity to help the homeless who go to their shelter, and they volunteered there too.

Service Call

Marist Brother Eladio Gonzalez, a Squires and high-school counselor, describes how, on just one day after school, Squires went to a school with poor children and then a daycare center to bring $100 to each for books and educational games. The Squires also brought some math games right then and taught the children how to use them.

As members do a project a month in each of the four Squire focus areas — spirituality, recruitment, socialization and service — Brother Gonzalez notices something important.

“What attracts more of the kid is the service,” he finds. Like the time they went to a public school specializing in autistic children. The Squires studied autism and soon were back to join in games, sing, and play in the playground with the children.

“It’s been one of the projects we felt more close to God in one way or another,” Brother Gonzalez says. “When you do something for others the main benefit is to yourself because you feel an internal peace and joy.”

It’s one spiritual lesson Squires everywhere learn.

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen

writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.