The youth provincial board leadership of the Columbian Squires of Ontario pose for a group photo outside its headquarters in Mississauga after a meeting in July. Photo courtesy of the Sequeira family

Columbian Squires run strong in Ontario

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • August 11, 2021

The Knights of Columbus is a household name to Catholics around the world, but less well-known is its youth leadership organization, the Columbian Squires.

The not-for-profit was founded in 1925 through a petition led by Br. Barnabas McDonald, FSC, with the mission to shape young boys, aged 10-18, into the future Catholic leaders of their communities, in addition to ensuring long-term membership stability for the Knights.

Today, the Columbian Squires boast a young and flourishing community of young men with over 22,000 members worldwide.

“We have four main components: membership, spiritual, circle and service. The most direct form of Catholic moral teaching makes its way into our service initiatives, where rather than think of ourselves, we focus on the needs of our community,” said David Saldanha, elected chief squire for the Ontario board last month.

This board is comprised of youth who supervise the projects of about 260 Squires within the province who are categorized into 19 different “circles,” small groups based upon geographical location.

Enzo Caterina, a member of the Knights of Columbus for 12 years, is the assistant state Squires director on the provincial board. In his adult supervision of the Squires, he admits that the boys “do everything on their own.”

“The boys run the show and they plan all the events.” said Caterina. “They just check in with the adults for safety concerns, but we try to stay out of it. When they fail, they learn. If there wasn’t a program like this, where would these boys be?”

As an elected official on the provincial board, Saldanha mirrors what a CEO would do in a corporate environment, namely overseeing province-wide communications, the publication of the Squires’ Compass magazine and planning initiatives.

He campaigned on two major promises: a “recruitment and retention program,” and formulating an integrated transition from the pandemic.

He says the skills honed through working on Squires projects transfers to his work at a grocery store.

“My biggest takeaways are the values of work ethic, collaboration and service to other people. When I’m at work, I always ask myself ‘what am I doing to best serve the customer?’ ” he said.

The Squires are heavily involved within local Church activities and take on many service projects such as spreading joy at local seniors’ homes and attending the annual National March for Life each spring in Ottawa.

Aidan D’Souza, who will be provincial deputy squire for the upcoming year, said the “COVID care packages” were among his most memorable examples of service.

“We received a grant from the government, and we assembled care packages for the less fortunate to help the community close to home. All extra funds were given to the St. Vincent De Paul society,” said the Mississauga teen.

Braving the pandemic has been especially hard for the Squires, Caterina said. Nigel Santamaria, as past provincial chief squire from the 2020-2021 year, can second that as he had to innovate and execute changes to the program during the challenging year.

“We have become more digitally friendly, which will be more helpful in the future. We also created a new digital investiture,” said the 18-year-old.

From the friends and encounters D’Souza has experienced in his time with the Squires, he strongly encourages other young boys to join the program.

“Don’t be shy to take the leap. You may not want to join, but just do it. It’s worth it.”

(Vecchiato, 16, will begin Grade 12 at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto this September.) 

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