Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 17, 2010
Barney sees the value of pennies, priests
Dedicated Knight Barney Markowski collects loose change to help spur on Alberta vocations
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Vocations are everybody's business, and definitely a high priority for the Knights of Columbus.
Through the Pennies for Heaven program, under the leadership of Barney Markowski, the Knights raise thousands of dollars every year to help Alberta's future priests.
When Pennies for Heaven started in 1974, the Knights raised about $300. The amount went up year after year, mainly through fundraising challenges among councils.
"Barney's main project these past years has been the Pennies for Heaven. At every meeting, Barney gets out his basket and goes around collecting money, and asking councils to donate money to the program," said Neil Gannon, the Knights state deputy for Alberta/Northwest Territories.
Individual knights contribute their spare change at council meetings and the money is divided among the province's five dioceses and the Ukrainian Eparchy for discretionary spending for their seminarians. The money helps offset the costs a seminarian faces en route to the priesthood.
Markowski was convinced that the program could bring in more than the typical $5,000 or $7,000 per year. In earnest, he took over the role of chairman in 1998 and ever since he has put his heart and soul into Pennies for Heaven.
He encouraged the Knights to support young men involved in vocations.
"We used to send missionaries to Africa and South America. Now we're bringing in priests from Africa, India, Mexico, you name it, because we don't have enough young people in Canada (becoming priests). That's why I've worked so hard trying to promote it, trying to raise funds," he said.
His enthusiasm for the formation of priests is responsible for popularizing the program, which now averages $30,000 per year. The year 2007 brought in an all-time high of $37,321.
"Quite a bit of money every year, about $30,000 per year, is donated. Most of it is coming from the quarters and loonies that people throw in his basket," said Gannon.
DOWN TO EARTH
Gannon described his fellow knight as dedicated, honest and down to earth. But at age 85, Gannon said it's time for Markowski to hand over the reins to somebody else.
Three other knights have volunteered to run the program.
"It's best for the organization," said Markwoski. "No one should be in any chair too long, whether you're a president or a financial secretary or whatever it might be. You should only be in there for so many years, then step down and let somebody else do it."
Markowski's only disappointment is that only about 40 per cent of the councils in the province participate in Pennies for Heaven. He still wants to see full participation throughout Alberta.
"If the next fellow who steps in and tries to do his best and tries to keep promoting it the way I have, it will grow. With 75 to 80 per cent of the councils participating, our vocations will grow for the priesthood."
Wally Streit, the Knights' past state deputy, said Markowski championed the program for many years and his efforts will be missed.
"Barney worked tirelessly in promoting Pennies for Heaven at the state level. He would really make a supreme effort to make all the councils participate," said Streit.
The little jingles in people's pockets added up and will reach the $500,000 plateau later this year, he said.
A knight since 1962, Markowski has served many roles in the archdiocese over the years under six different bishops. Aside from chairing Pennies for Heaven, he also chaired a Knights' committee to celebrate the millennium, and chairs the Marian Hour of Prayer, a rosary-centred event.
As part of the Knight's Keep Christ in Christmas campaign, he played a key role in arranging to have the Knights erect a nativity scene at the former Bright Nights display in Hawrelak Park.
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