In Retrospect: Fifteen Years of Santo Nino Council #12415
By Seb Koh, PGK, FDD
Back in December, 1998, shortly after Christmas, I got a phone call from a man who invited me for coffee to talk about the possibility of organizing a Filipino Knights of Columbus Council. We met at Robin’s Donut in South Albert St. He introduced himself as Martin Wrubleski, a district deputy (DD) in Regina. He knew that most Filipinos are Catholic and he told me that a Filipino council was formed in Saskatoon a couple years back and they have done well and served the community and church. I told him that I know about the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines who are rich and can be depended upon to give donations. He told me that that was a misconception and it would be best if we can arrange an information night. That’s what we agreed upon.
Terry Abadiano and I put together a list of 65 Filipino Catholic men in Regina to be invited by Martin to the info night. Of this number, twelve men showed up on January 17, 1999 at the Christ the King Parish Hall. The twelve were Terry Abadiano, Jim Alvarez, Rio Mercado, Ed Alejandria, James Madrilejos, Efren Alejandria, Mody Escanlar, Glen Empleo, Gregg Ravasco, Jovil Paez, Mario Sison and myself. We were treated to lectures by DD Martin, Grand Knight (GK) Sixto Marucot of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Council #11429 in Saskatoon and State Deputy (SD) Martin Nienaber and to video presentations. Of the twelve, Ed and Glen were Knights belonging to other councils, the rest signed up.
We had other info nights and recruitments in succeeding weekends increasing our number to over thirty. We also had a major degree for these thirty some new recruits. At this point, it was suggested that we form a council, give it a name, look for a church base and find a chaplain. We had several names but Santo Nino (Holy Child in Spanish) won over Gomburza (Acronym for Frs. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora martyred in the Philippines in 1872). There were also several churches and chaplains to choose from but Fr. Emmett Morrissey and Blessed Sacrament Parish won out hands down.
Charter Night was chosen to coincide with our Founder’s Day, March 29, 1999. We had thirty eight charter members with the following elected officers: Grand Knight- Dr. Seb Koh, Deputy Grand Knight- Dr. Mody Escanlar, Chancellor- Terry Abadiano, Financial Secretary- Efren Alejandria, Recorder- Jovil Paez, Treasurer- James Madrilejos, Lecturer- Jim Alvarez, Advocate- Ed Alejandria, Warden- Sonny de Paz, Inside Guard- Boni Sison, Outside Guard- Gregg Ravasco, Trustees- Allan Ngui, Ferdie Feliciano, and Ray Mariano.
From the beginning, members were ready to render service to church, family and community. At the same time more members joined up; so much so that we won the Star Council Award and the Contest of Champions Award on our first full year of service. The Star Council Award is for service in five different areas (church, community, council, family and youth) and achievements in membership and insurance. The Contest of Champions is for recruiting the most new members in Saskatchewan in one year. We had 17 new members, thus achieving 340% of our quota. In the last fourteen years, we won the Star Council Award ten times.
I like to think that coffee is a prime mover of bright ideas. As when Martin and I discussed the formation of our council over coffee, a dear friend invited me for coffee at Just Bean Brewed on Broad and 14th to talk about something. One day in 2003, I met with Carl and Nettie Folk to discuss the possibility of merging the Msgr. Janssen Council #4959 based in St. Mary’s with Santo Nino Council. To make a long story short, both councils agreed and State Council (thanks SD Bert West) and Supreme Council approved the amalgamation with the merged council retaining the name of Santo Nino and council number #12415. Our membership jumped from seventy some to 158.
The amalgamated council carried on with renewed vigor adding several activities to its program. These include the monthly charity bingo at Bingo Palace, the awarding of bursaries to deserving senior students at the four Catholic high schools, the memorial mass and the continued maintenance of Columbus Park. At the May, 2004 Council election, GK Rio Mercado was returned for another year and to reflect the amalgamation, GK Carl Folk was elected Trustee, Bro. Art Vanderzalm was elected Treasurer and PGK Gil MacDonald, Advocate. Bro Art was also made Fundraising Director. The merged council has worked well and smoothly thanks to the goodwill and devotion of officers and members.
Over the past fourteen years, Council is developing certain traditions including the Canada Day celebration (mass by the Archbishop and followed by brunch) as suggested by Fr. Emmett Morrissey, Christmas caroling to senior homes and family homes, training of young altar servers, charity drives such as shamrock sales, regular liturgical services, retreats, family picnics, tennis tournaments, and celebrations honoring our Chaplain, our ladies and our young mass servers. A newsletter was started in 2000 as a quarterly publication.
It’s been great since our charter and we are lucky to have a succession of devoted grand knights after myself: GKs. Terry Abadiano (2000-2001), Jim Alvarez (2001-2003), Rio Mercado (2003-2005), Lally Alejandria (2005-2006, R. I. P.), Jess Feliciano (2006-2007), James Madrilejos (2007-2008), Efren Alejandria (2008-2009), Pete Escanlar (2009-2011), Gregg Ravasco (2011-2013) and Joe Alejandria (2013- ). I will be remiss if I do not acknowledge the tremendous help, guidance and advice our council received from the District Deputies, namely, DDs Martin Wrubleski (at our charter), Merv Kealey, Seb Koh, Claude Lefebvre, Bob Rothecker, Rio Mercado, Darren Hehn, Kevin Roche, and Glen Piotrofsky. Let me add that DDs Claude and Rio won Star District Awards at their turns; the criteria for this award is pretty much like those for the Star Council Award but at a larger scale. DD Martin won DD of the Year when our council was formed.
The vibrancy of the Santo Nino Council is due in great measure to the devotion of the officers, members and their better halves as well as the guidance of our Chaplain. Membership has grown to 222 today making our council the largest in Regina if not the entire province of Saskatchewan.
Regina, Sask. March 11, 2014