Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 15, 2000
Knights give to the community
Program director greateful for what he's received
By GLEN ARGAN
Max Ciesielski remembers the hard times - "the war and the times when people were hungry."
"This country has been good to me," he says of Canada, the country to which he immigrated from Poland after the Second World War. "You feel you've got to give something back."
He married here, raised eight children and ran a successful bakery for 33 years.
His means for giving back to the community over the last 23 years has been the Knights of Columbus. "I've been involved steadily from the day I was initiated."
He's been a grand knight twice, helped run a local Columbian Squires (youth) circle for many years, was president of the Edmonton chapter, and has been state director for Squires, youth, pro-life and community at one time or another.
Now as the Knights' state program director, Ciesielski has a bird's eye view on how the other 13,000 Knights in the Alberta-Northwest Territories jurisdiction are also giving back to their Church and community.
And he's learned one thing: "If you don't get people involved right away, they don't stay with it." A new member who doesn't find programs in his council that appeal to him won't long remain a member.
But as Ciesielski lists off programs and projects in which the Knights are involved, it's hard to see why that should be a problem.
"There's no limit to what we do. They just call" and the Knights are there to assist, he says.
When Archbishop Thomas Collins was installed as archbishop of Edmonton last September, the Knights provided transportation, traffic control and security.
When Catholic Social Services needed a home for its Safe House program for street kids, the Knights donated a house and remodeled it with volunteer labour.
When the Christmas light show in Edmonton's Hawrelak Park had lots of dancing reindeer, but no Jesus, the Knights raised $30,000 to install a colourful Nativity scene.
When St. Anthony's Church installed a new carpet, the Knights came forward to reinstall the kneelers.
The Knights donate money or goods to pro-life groups like Birthright, Pregnancy Counselling Centres and Terra School for teenage moms.
They organize local activities such as children's skating parties and Christmas parties, blood donor clinics, Communion breakfasts and seniors' events.
They hold fraternal events for their members and families such as picnics, campouts, bowling and curling.
They run the Columbian Squires and Squirettes to provide leadership training and promote community involvement among teens.
They promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They help out in their parishes.
Ciesielski's Holy Trinity Council held a Family Bake a Cake contest. The Knights baked cakes and brought them to an event. While the Knights held a brief meeting, the wives judged the cakes. They held a party afterward and took the leftover cakes to the Youth Emergency Shelter.
From big projects to small projects, the Knights are always active. The spirit of it all stems back to Father Michael McGivney who founded the order in New Haven, Conn., in 1882.
In those days, notes Ciesielski, there were no social services, public health care or help for the unemployed. Widows were often left penniless. The Knights launched an insurance program for members and soon started community volunteer projects.
"Wherever you go, you always find the poor and lonely people," says Ciesielski. "We still carry this same program in a different way - through insurance and the community."
The Knights find that by giving to others, they too receive.
One big benefit of the Knights, says Ciesielski, is the fraternity. "No matter where you go, you are welcome.
"You make an awful lot of friends. I've made friends all over the province through the Knights."