Myles Cesario ’21
Mr. Oliver Capko, S.J. is the newest Jesuit in our school community and perhaps one of the most unknown characters in our school life. But in truth, his life has been unique and filled with adventure. Born in Greater Vancouver on January 25, 1994—the Feast Day of the Conversion of St. Paul—he is one of three children. Mr. Capko had a unique childhood, growing up with his three biological siblings as well as a large family of 32 cousins and many aunts and uncles. But he was not born a saint; in truth, no one is. learned his faith and developed it to where it is today; this is his story.
Mr. Capko’s personal life was defined by attending a Benedictine boarding school named the Seminary of Christ the King or The Westminster Abbey (Canadian version) where he played hockey on rollerblades and did a series of pranks, which we won’t describe here. While he did play hockey, he also enjoys running, soccer, rock climbing, in addition to being a certified snowboarding instructor. The Seminary of Christ the King was similar to St. Paul’s in the sense that it sought to challenge each student to strive for virtue even though it is a hard battle, focusing on “who am I as a friend and what am I looking for in a friend?” But for Mr. Capko, his faith was not always as colourful as it is now; he saw “the value in religion” but the extent he practiced it “varied.”
Instead, his spiritual life reflected heavily on that of his parents. When he saw them develop their faith in God, Mr. Capko realized that “any faith that is stagnant is dead,” believing that developing one’s faith constantly is important to realizing God’s role in one’s life. But not everyone agreed with his beliefs on everything, including some of his friends. He did not push them out of his life, but they focused on their shared experiences and other things they had in common. In all major discussions, Mr. Capko and his friends sought to find the truth. His mission was finding God, while his friends focused on finding justice. But these differences ultimately led to a stronger friendship, one in which all friends could make jokes about Christianity, for “if you can’t laugh about your religion, your faith is probably not that strong.”
This all leads back to Mr. Capko’s discernment for his vocation. While attending boarding school, the strict prayer life always included 5:45 AM wake-up times to 6:00 AM prayer to even 6:30 AM mass in the chapel. The Benedictines always kept him spiritually fed. But what he would do after boarding school had always seemed clear. Although Mr. Capko wanted a girlfriend, he knew God’s calling and was willing to accept that sacrifice and become a Jesuit. The boy was practically raised by Benedictines; his own brother is a Benedictine! In response to this, Mr. Capko says a Benedictine sat him down and told him that the Benedictines and the Jesuits were two rival hockey teams, but still playing for the love of the sport; both Benedictines and Jesuits play a role in proclaiming God’s love.
But in truth, the Benedictines encouraged his vocation to the Jesuits even more, citing that there are over one million saints, meaning that there are one million different ways people have made up the Body of Christ. Mr. Capko’s family was more than happy to see their son become a Jesuit, and even though he and his brother may be from opposite ends of the ecclesiastical spectrum, deep down they care for each other in being brutally honest in reading their homilies. In becoming a Jesuit, his family knew he would have to leave beautiful British Columbia. He wanted a “social vocation” where he could interact with people.
In only four years, Mr. Capko has visited Belize, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay, the United States, Guatemala, and multiple provinces within Canada, learning new languages along the way. In his time in these countries, he worked in juvenile prisons, St. John’s College in Belize City, and catechism programs for young children. He worked with the homeless, helped unassisted minors in the United States, and cared for people with special needs. Other places he’s worked include an organic farm and the Jesuit infirmary during the COVID-19 pandemic. One story that Mr. Capko shared with me was about six people he met on a train from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles.
On this train, a special community formed. He met a mother from Guatemala with a three-month-old child, stressed and tired as she was meeting up with someone who lived in LA. Next, he encountered a man heading to North Dakota to fish, a former drug dealer who got out of the business, later setting up a daycare. Another traveller was a construction worker who bought many toys for the Guatemalan child. But the last member of the group was another young mother who had suffered from drug addiction and who now had a 16-month-old child. She had asked Mr. Capko to watch her child at 12:30 AM so that she could go for a smoke break.
So, Mr. Capko was left with a baby for what was supposed to be five minutes but ended up being for an hour and five minutes! In that time, he was concerned that the mother might have left him with her child indefinitely. But he felt “very close to God” and prayed, asking, “what’s my role in all of this?” The mother would soon return, retaking her child and apologizing for the delay. In this life-changing event, Mr. Capko realized that in normal circumstances he would never normally meet these people but through living the Spiritual Exercises he realized how close God can be and how personal the exercises can become.
When Mr. Capko found out he would be sent to Winnipeg last year, he was stationed in Chicago and needed to move quickly to avoid the US-Canada border shutdown. His first perspective when it came to Winnipeg was its cold weather, but when he began to live here, he found quickly how friendly the people were and how flat the city was, perfect for biking and running. I asked him what he thinks about the Jets: he’s a fan. That’s a safe response from a BC guy.
Mr. Capko is currently a grade nine religion teacher. In this time, he’s learned that the grade nine course is deep in knowledge and that he has his own personal desires to add concepts, not just in the course, but also in Campus Ministry. His hope is for a place where all students can share their faith, for in a world like ours, he says it’s hard to find friends while sharing your values and beliefs in God. It’s too hard to create small communities of faith where faith and worship are focused on God because it’s too easy to forget God in this world. But Mr. Capko also wants to foster a change, that we need to breathe and challenge ourselves to live each moment to its fullest. Each lesson must be lived to its max and each opportunity to its excellence. We must not close ourselves off but be open-minded and questioning at the same time.
So, who is Mr. Oliver Capko, S.J.? A saint? A Jesuit? A teacher? More than that, for we too are more than simply students, parents, or staff. We are travellers on the road to God and that comes in many different forms, from being a parent to being a Jesuit. We don’t get things easy one way or the other. We are meant for excellence, not complacency. So, what can be learned about Mr. Oliver Capko? He is a man who has served and will continue to serve in hope and love of all and if anyone one of you wants to talk, Mr. Capko says he’s an approachable guy, so all you have to do is say hello.
Photos courtesy of Mr. Capko