Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 25, 2005
Casavant gambles on stewardship
Retiring K of C state deputy bet on restoring the family
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
If two years at the helm of the Knights of Columbus Alberta-Northwest Territories jurisdiction revealed one thing to departing State Deputy Mickey Casavant, it is that if a man loses his family, he has little wealth.
Casavant, who will be remembered for betting the Knights will get along fine without casino revenues, says what he found most fulfilling during his two-year term heading some 15,500 members was getting them back to their true mission of stewardship - offering their time and talents to serve the community, with less emphasis on fundraising.
While he admitted in a recent interview with the WCR, this will impact some charities and parish projects that traditionally receive large donations from the Knights, finding alternate ways to raise less funds not detrimental to families, has far greater value.
"Not long ago, someone asked me why I announced the Knights were getting out of casinos and when I made the decision. I could not remember exactly when, but about five years ago I had told the deputy supreme knight that if I had the good fortune of being state deputy, I would try to redirect the Knights to the grassroots of the order more intensely," said Casavant, 62.
Focus on families
"I wanted more focus working with families and involving them in more activities. I felt we were going towards defining success in terms of how much financial support we can give to other groups in our communities -which is important because the groups do tremendous work," he said.
The Alberta bishops' pastoral letter, The False Eden of Gambling, had a big influence on Casavant. Ironically, he had not read it when he made his decision, but sensed the message the bishops were conveying.
"A lot of people point their finger at Bishop Fred Henry, but he was not yet named the bishop of Calgary when the letter was written. But it became very important to him when he came to Alberta."
Casavant said families are the backbone of the Knights and that Father Michael McGivney started the organization in 1882 to look at enhancing and protecting families and children and building relationships.
As state deputy, he felt the K of C was becoming a men's social club. He wanted to bring it back more in solidarity with the bishops and priests.
A year ago, Casavant struck a games and chance committee that has now contacted all 160 councils in the jurisdiction, to determine what fundraising family projects can be done without relying on casinos.
A catalogue is nearly completed that will list the suggestions. The committee decided the Knights would be out of the gambling business within the next two years. This is compatible with the timeline suggested by the bishops, Casavant said.
"We could have socials in parishes and put on a spaghetti dinner and charge a basic amount for the meal. We could have family concerts once a month and utilize the talents within a parish and take a silver collection.
"Our expenses would be negligible and any profits we make, we can turn around and use them for charities or to cover other project expenses.
"Everyone benefits," he said.
Casavant, a social worker with the Alberta government for 30 years before retiring seven years ago, dealt with numerous cases where alcohol, drugs and gambling were factors eroding family relationships.
As state deputy, he tapped into those experiences. He was determined to provide spiritual direction using the Knights' four principles: Charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
At the end of his term, Casavant is not going out passively. He has initiated a plan to ensure the Knights of Columbus are represented in every parish in the jurisdiction.
The organization will form what Casavant called "round tables," to help a council that might have three mission parishes but one priest. He said this has been a tradition of the Knights, but not well enough pursued in Alberta. There will be a coordinator who will look at the needs of the area and report back to the Knights' executive.
"We want to spread our wings to provide a service to every Catholic parish in Alberta."
- Mickey Casavant
Offer K of C help
"We want to spread our wings to provide a service to every Catholic parish in Alberta," he said. "I want to have this established. For those parishes that do not have a Knights council, we need to establish a liaison and contact people who can work with the priests and offer our help."
Casavant was a force behind a campaign calling on all Catholics to send to their members of Parliament postcards produced by the Knights, to protest any change to the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman only. Casavant estimates 165,000 cards were sent from Alberta.
"It was a huge success. Councils, parishes and communities all became involved. We had many Christian faith groups and non-Catholic churches approach us to sign the cards," he said.
Casavant thinks he is leaving behind a healthier, family oriented environment more in line with Alberta bishops.
"It was all worth it. I gained personal growth travelling the jurisdiction with my wife, Astrid, meeting the members while sharing our thoughts. It has not been easy because we had to sacrifice some time with our own family. But I absolutely have no regrets."
Last fall, Casavant was one of two knights in Canada appointed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson to the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, an Ottawa-based organization connected with Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, to help promote the teaching of the Catholic Church on respect for human life and the dignity of the human person.
The committee supports and strengthens the fundamental role of the family in society and promotes the Church's teaching on natural family planning.
He said he has invitations to become involved in numerous activities, but he is mostly looking forward to coming back and being more active in Brother Anthony Council 10014, his home council in St. Albert.
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