Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 30, 2001
Italian council enthusiastic
Hard work of members enables 2-year-old council to thrive
SPECIAL TO WCR
CALGARY — When Father Valentino Alberton came to North America from Italy more than 30 years ago, he ended up saying Mass in a church just a block away from the Knights of Columbus international headquarters in New Haven, Conn.
Yet, no one ever asked him to become involved with the Knights.
When Salvatore Ficaccio approached Alberton two years ago and asked whether a new council could be established at the church, the Italian priest could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
With Alberton's encouragement and Ficaccio's leadership, Our Lady of Grace Council 12419 is already among the most active in Calgary.
In its first year of activity, it was named first runner-up as fraternal council of the year at the state convention for Alberta and the Northwest Territories. It also picked up five runner-up awards in five separate categories. It was named a "star" council, one of 16 in the province. And it joined the State Deputy's 200 Club for increasing its membership by 325 per cent in one year. Starting with 32 members, it currently has 59 and climbing.
"It was a tremendous year," says Ficaccio, runner-up as grand knight of the year for both 1999 and 2000. "We're hoping it will be a repeat this year."
Not content to focus on it's own membership, the Calgary council was instrumental in establishing a council at Edmonton's Santa Maria Goretti Parish this year. It received a Knights' charter on March 30.
What's the key to their success?
"You must have the priest," Ficaccio said during an interview during a council executive meeting. "If you have his backing, you can accomplish many, many things."
Traditionally, the Italian community in Canada has shied away from the Knights, partly out of a lack of understanding about the role of the Knights, said Ficaccio.
A couple of years ago, the Calgary chapter of the Knights of Columbus, with encouragement and blessing from Bishop Frederick Henry, indicated that they wanted a Knights council in every parish in the city.
Ficaccio, who had been involved for a year with the council at St. Mary's Cathedral, approached Alberton. The Italian pastor subsequently preached at every Mass about the value of the Knights and the many important activities it undertakes.
"Father Val came to our meetings, brought his ideas and told us what he'd like to see done," says Ficaccio. (Unfortunately, Alberton, 72, fell ill while visiting Italy last summer and didn't return home. He recently re-entered hospital in Italy.)
Since it received its charter in March 1999 the council has become involved in virtually every aspect of church life at Our Lady of Grace from hosting a pasta night for 225 people to sponsoring a Marian Hour of Prayer at Easter time.
They try to involve the youth group in every event. They honour a parish family every month. They helped with this year's citywide Good Friday Way of the Cross.
"We see this as more of a service to the parish, a service to the community," says Fred Underhill, council financial secretary. "We're not big into fundraising. We're into doing things.
"We must always have a high profile," he says. "We must always be seen to be doing things and be seen to be providing things."
Last year when Ficaccio went to Edmonton for the state convention, he asked Father Giovanni Bonelli, pastor at Santa Mario Goretti, if they'd like to start a council. Ficaccio ended up speaking at all the weekend Masses instead of attending the convention.
"At that point, Father Giovanni became the first Knight," says Ficaccio, who presented the Knights of Columbus flag at the charter meeting last month.
As much as anything, the council thrives on hard work and enthusiasm. "The people we have are great," he says. "I'm so proud of them. They voice their opinions, give their ideas and they act on them.
"They work with their hearts," he says. "They want to do it. It makes you feel as if you're doing it with love - and hard work. That's why we're so vibrant. They're willing to give."
That enthusiasm is contagious. When a parishioner was helping to put away chairs after Pasta Night in March, Ficaccio said to him, "If you're doing the work, you might as well join us."
"Give me a piece of paper," the parishioner shot back. He signed up on the spot.
"People are always keen," says council Lecturer Tony Rino. "They just need a place where they can sign up."
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