Columbian Squires gaining local momentum
Say “Knights of Columbus,” and most people think of the dedicated group of Catholic men who oversee everything from parish fish fries to charitable endeavors for children, the sick and others in need.
Less well known is the KC’s junior arm – the Columbian Squires – which welcomes Catholic boys ages 10 through 18.
The Squires’ relative obscurity in the local church may soon be a thing of the past, based on the buzz at their statewide convention, held last month at St. Maria Goretti in New Orleans. While Louisiana’s Squires have yet to return to their pre-Katrina number of 52 “circles” – or groups – 10 new Squires circles are in the works in the Archdiocese of New Orleans alone, said George Martin, the Squires’ state chairman.
Within the last year, 60 young Louisianians have been initiated into the international organization, bringing the current statewide tally to 416 members.
“The revival of the Squires program is well on its way. We’ve got more and more boys participating every year,” Martin said.
“The activities that the boys are doing are tremendous,” he added. “We’re trying to promote the youth ministry. We pray every time we meet; we try to do a rosary every time we have an activity; and we try to include a Mass every time we go somewhere. We definitely want to make sure the boys are following in the footsteps of the Knights of Columbus in promoting life and doing their duty for God and country.”
Currently numbering 5,000 circles worldwide, the Squires were established in 1925, when Christian Brother Barnabas McDonald was asked by the KC to create an organization to help boys develop into Catholic leaders by providing them with social and character-building activities. Operating under the motto “Esto Dignus” (Be Worthy), the first circle was chartered in Duluth, Minn.
Since then the Squires program, which focuses on Catholic leadership training, physical activities, sportsmanship, pro-life education, vocations and volunteerism, has been an important incubator for adult KC members, who together form the largest Catholic lay organization in the world, with more than 1.8 million men and 15,000 councils committed to charitable works.
While each circle plans its own local service projects and social events, a host of activities brings together the statewide membership, including retreats, a fishing rodeo, horseshoes, bowling, softball, laser tag, a Family Fun Day and a January trip to the pro-life march in Baton Rouge.
Squires circles elect their own leadership and run their own meetings, with the guidance of an adult from the sponsoring KC group. There are currently 32 Squires circles in Louisiana, including three in the Archdiocese of New Orleans: Circle 4857, based at St. Maria Goretti; Jesuit Marquette Circle 4156, headquartered at Jesuit High School; and the Gretna-based Marian Circle 786, sponsored by the Archbishop Blenk KC.
Thanks to a recent membership drive and an enhanced website, Squires circles will be reactivated or launched soon at Archbishop Shaw and De La Salle and at five parishes: Christ the King in Terrytown; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Belle Chasse; St. Rosalie in Harvey; and Resurrection of Our Lord and Mary Queen of Vietnam in New Orleans. The latter will become the nation’s first predominantly Vietnamese-American Squires circle, Martin said.
Three other schools – Holy Cross, Brother Martin and Archbishop Rummel – are seeking the sponsorship of a KC council.
“We do service projects and we also can have fun. You create life-lasting friendships in the Squires,” said Kerry “Tré” Williams III, outgoing chief squire of the 18-member Squires circle based at St. Maria Goretti, and the outgoing deputy chief squire for Louisiana.
Williams, who also is the webmaster of the Louisiana Squires website, was introduced to the group at age 8 by his father, a member of St. Maria Goretti’s quarter-century-old, 94-member KC 9415. Circle activities include raising money for scholarships and programming, assisting the KC at fish fries and taking brown-bag lunches to playgrounds in New Orleans East and St. Bernard, and participating in the ACCESS baby bottle campaign.
“The main thing is to create friendships and have fun while giving service,” Williams said. “It’s taught me how not to be nervous to speak in front of people, how to socialize, how to lead a group and to be a mentor to younger kids.”
A former altar server, Williams joined his parish’s KC in March when he turned 18. He said being in the Squires strengthened his faith.
“We pray at the beginning of all our meetings and functions, and we talk about Scripture and how Jesus is there to help you,” Williams said. “It has taught me to trust God, and that he’s there when you need him. He’s there all the time.”
The consent of a priest, the sponsorship of a KC council or assembly, and a membership of at least 10 Catholic boys ages 10-18 are required to form a Squires circle. Go to www.louisianasquires.org.
SIDEBAR: Jesuit High's Squires circle poised to serve
Chartered in 1994, Jesuit Marquette Circle 4156, based at Jesuit High School, currently is the second-largest Squires circle in the state, with a post-Katrina membership high of 42 boys. The circle, sponsored by Marquette Council 1437 KC in the CBD, meets during lunch period, said Jack Truxillo, Jesuit’s former admission director, who moderated the circle for three years before assuming his new post as an associate superintendent of Catholic Schools.
“(Jesuit’s Squires) are dedicated to service and dedicated to their faith,” Truxillo said. “They inspire me. In the beginning of the school year I had five guys come up to ask, ‘When are we gonna schedule a meeting?’ The organization could have died (after Katrina) if it weren’t for the boys. They kept it going.”
The circle’s local endeavors include a coat and blanket drive for St. John the Baptist Community Center, the collection of toiletries for local homeless agencies and a spring auction benefiting Jesuit missions around the world, the most recent of which raised nearly $3,000. Jesuit’s Squires also assemble and deliver Thanksgiving food baskets and sponsor an annual Mass and brunch for members and their families.
“We have over 70 clubs, teams and activities (at Jesuit) and they choose this,” Truxillo said. “It impresses me that they want to do this, that they include (the Squires) in what they want to do and what they’re called to do. Don’t believe everything you hear about teenagers!”
Truxillo recently passed the circle’s supervisory reins to two adults: Ted Mahne, a Jesuit theology teacher, and Mike Jamison, one of the founders of the 18-year-old circle. Jamison notes that although Jesuit’s circle didn’t gain steam until the late 1990s, its formation was the culmination of 10 years of behind-the-scenes work by retired Jesuit Father Claude Boudreaux, former chaplain of the Marquette KC.
“Father convinced me that we should have a Squires circle, but it was just too hard to get young men down to Marquette’s office (in the CBD),” Jamison said, adding that high school campuses provide fertile ground for Squires circles, given their built-in service focus and connection with young Catholic men from across the metro area.
“When Father Boudreaux took (the circle) to Jesuit he grew it to over 300 members, which made it the largest circle in the history of the Squires,” Jamison said. “When the Squires were really strong (at Jesuit), their booth at the Jesuit Bazaar made more money than any other booth. We would like to get back to that.”
– Beth Donze