Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 26, 2004
A new generation of leaders
St. Albert Squires recognized for outstanding service to others
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
St. Albert teens are serving the Church and community and developing as leaders too through their award-winning Columbian Squires circle.
"My experience with the Squires has been great," said Ian Clarke, 16, who serves as the circle's treasurer. "We are helping a lot of people and we're having fun doing it. When we sang Christmas carols at the Youville Home, it was really nice.
"Being a squire is a real confidence builder. I'm now the treasurer of my student council," said Clarke who was named squire of the year for the Brother Anthony Kowalczyk Circle.
The circle was recently presented with the Brother Barnabas and Corps d'Elite awards by the supreme council of the Knights of Columbus for outstanding service and commitment.
Recognition a bonus
And while the recognition is flattering, says chief squire Lee Pasternak, it is not the reason he and 25 other St. Albert teens volunteer countless hours.
"It felt really good to get the awards because it is having others notice our achievements. But recognition is just a bonus," said Pasternak, 16.
"We do it to give back to our community. We did a 24-hour wake-a-thon recently and with the pledges we had for the number of hours we stayed awake, we were able to raise $2,000," he said.
"We donated half of the amount to the Youth Emergency Shelter. It made us all feel really good inside because we were helping out other people."
Last year, the circle's chief squire Alex Becigneul, 16, was named chief squire of the year for all of Alberta.
"When someone sees how much fun we have, like making cookies for the blood donor clinic and serving juice and helping the donors, it really helps us attract new members," Becigneul said. "If we weren't having fun, what's the point?"
Becigneul says he used to be shy speaking in front of a crowd. Now he enjoys giving talks before the congregation at church as well as at school - changes he attributes to the Squires.
"I recently was co-emcee at an orientation night at our school to welcome the Grade 9 students who are coming in the fall," he said. "Not only was I speaking to about 200 students, but I was being video-taped. If I hadn't joined the Squires, I wouldn't have thought about doing it. I would have thought I'd die from being so nervous. But now I can do it."
Blessing of throats
The circle received the Brother Barnabas award, named for the founder of the Columbian Squires, for reviving the feast of St. Blaise Mass and the blessing of the throats. Only a few issues of this award are handed out world-wide every year.
The second award, the Corps d'Elite award, was one of only six presented in Canada, and the only one west of Ontario.
Maurice Pasternak, co-chief counsellor for the circle, is astounded by the effort of the boys since he and a handful of knights created the Squire circle two years ago.
"There are four standing committees - spiritual, circle, membership and service - and the squires are required to do at least four activities in each committee," said Pasternak, whose other son Dean, is the membership chairman.
"For example, for spiritual they did the feast of St. Blaise Mass and they ushered Mass at Holy Family Parish the first Saturday of each month. They selected and organized their own activities. They meet every month to discuss upcoming activities."
When the circle was notified they were selected to receive the prestigious awards, Pasternak felt fantastic, especially for the boys.
"It's all about the squires. They know that with the $1,000 they raised for the Youth Emergency Shelter, they are helping out someone else, someone their own age.
"I'm extremely proud of the boys and delighted with what they are doing. It's incredible. In their first year they conducted more than 26 different activities. After only two years, they have received these awards," he said.
"I attribute it to a strong executive and very eager and active young men. It's a very positive group."
This February, the circle held its second annual feast of St. Blaise Mass.
"There were about 85 people who came for the Tuesday night service," said Becigneul. "Some of them were youth, which was good to see because it shows that young people are getting more involved."
Joe Becigneul, Alex's father and another co-chief counsellor for the circle, says the current roster of 26 boys likes to keep busy. There are usually three or four events each month.
"Something we do is foster leadership development," he said. "In just under two years we have seen the boys step forward and take leadership roles. The activities they do, they have to plan.
"If they require funds, they have to plan how the funds will be raised. They put together a schedule and then they execute. They are developing leadership skills, some responsibility and some administrative skills.
"In Ian's case, he took on the job of bursar this year so he is responsible for the funds. He's learned some financial skills. We have four counsellors from our council of knights (including Denzle LaPorte and Elmer Wifladt) but the kids really instruct themselves under the guidance of the knights," he said.
"With each of the four committees, we have a counsellor to help the boys sift through all of the ideas they generate, which can come fast and furious."
Activities the squires performed last year included assisting at their sponsoring Knights council's monthly pancake breakfasts, helping at the bi-monthly blood donor clinics, and selling and distributing pro-life calendars.
They helped the CWL with its Christmas bazaar, sang Christmas carols at the Youville Home for seniors and collected used sporting equipment for Sport Central, to provide equipment for needy children in the greater Edmonton area.
As well, some of the things they did in the first year - such as the ushering, the blood donor clinic and reviving the feast of St. Blaise - have become annual events.
Since the beginning, they have experienced a growth in the number of squires. They have immersed themselves in the activities of the Church and the community. They have also become well recognized by the Knights and the community.
"They are leading by example. They will be the leaders of tomorrow," Joe Becigneul said. "If they see a need, they're there."
He has noticed a tremendous amount of growth in all of them. Three years ago, it was difficult to get any of the boys to speak at Mass, but now they have several volunteers.
"It didn't start grandiose," Becigneul said. "It was taking little bits of things to build their confidence. Pushing them into something they weren't prepared for could be detrimental."
They have drawn in a great number of 15 and 16-year-old boys which is a major accomplishment. It's a core group that branches out to the five schools in St. Albert.
Two days after Chris Connelly, the circle's notary and secretary, became a squire, the circle won four provincial awards at the annual convention.
"It was amazing to see what I was getting into," said Connelly, 17. "I saw what was going to be needed to be done the coming year and I was eager to help."
Connelly attests that if it weren't for being on the Squires' executive, he wouldn't have thought of running for a seat on his student council at school.
Dean Pasternak, 14, agrees that his brief experience with the Squires is helping to prepare him for a successful life.
"We become leaders and we get involved in activities that keep us active all year long," he said.
"In Grade 7 when I started to get involved with the Squires, I was shy and I didn't really care. Asking me to do anything, I always saw it as a waste of my time. But now when I do something, it's a lot of fun. I have developed a work ethic. I like being nice to people now."
The circle welcomes boys between the ages of 12 and 18. It will host the provincial Squire convention May 8 and 9 at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert. Currently, there are 14 active Squire circles in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.