Your Catholic Neighbor
Putting his faith into action
Cavil believes power of media should be used to advance God's mission
By Tony Staley
BELLEVUE -- For much of John Cavil's life, his faith mainly meant going to Mass on Sunday. His real focus was career and family.
Cavil now serves on his parish's pastoral council and stewardship committee and is actively trying to grow in his faith and to help others do the same to positively change society.
Cavil is a volunteer for Relevant Radio, the national Catholic radio network based in Green Bay, and Esto Vir, a Catholic men's organization, both of which he helped found.
"I never left the faith, but certainly my faith has become much more important than what it had been for quite a number of years - from my teenage years until the time I was 40-ish," said Cavil. He said Pope John Paul II was the most influential spiritual person in his life because of how he spoke the truth.
Some credit for the change also goes to Cavil's mother, Janice, who for years pestered her adult children to watch EWTN, the Catholic television network.
"We would say 'That's good for you, Mom. Thank you very much,'" Cavil said. "In mid-1995-96, I would watch it a little and quickly turn it off."
Still, something in Mother Angelica's challenge to step up and live his faith resonated with Cavil. He began watching videos on apologetics and other religious subjects while exercising.
Cavil also was intrigued by Mother Angelica's offer of free programming from her new radio network to anyone who bought or started a radio station in their community.
Cavil took the idea of a radio station to Bob Atwell and they approached Mark Follett, who had an even grander plan: a national radio network.
The first station, WJOK (1050 AM), went on the air Nov. 26, 2000 - the feast of Christ the King - with a Mass from St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. The national network was launched in 2001.
Next came Esto Vir, which Cavil and George Meiners started at the urging of Fr. John Girotti. What began with monthly Mass at Relevant Radio gradually grew beyond the Green Bay area.
Esto Vir (Latin for "Be a man") challenges men, its mission statement says, "to live extraordinary faith and leadership in daily life." It sponsors men's conferences, opportunities for fellowship, prayer and parish-based men's groups.
The idea for a men's conference came from Bishop David Zubik, who often presided at their Masses when he was bishop of Green Bay.
The first two were at St. Pius X Church in Appleton. The third one will be Saturday, March 15 at St. John the Baptist Church in Howard. It will open with registration at 7 a.m. and close at 3:45 p.m.
Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau will preside at the Mass and Drew Mariani, Relevant Radio's afternoon talk show host, will be the master of ceremonies. Speakers will be:
- Fr. Rick Wendell, associate pastor at Holy Angels Parish, West Bend, on his conversion story;
- Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College, on winning the culture war and refuting moral relativism;
- Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, on the science and ethics behind stem cells.
Cavil planned the conference with Meiners, Don Warden, Pat Beno, Sr., Bruce McEwing and Bob Wetzel.
Cavil is also looking ahead to the Power of Life Event, which Relevant Radio will co-sponsor Oct. 4 at Xavier High School in Appleton.
Power of Life will include presentations for families, teachers, adults and children, said Cavil, who serves on the core committee with Fr. Walter Stumpf and Tina Pallini.
Plans call for a soccer player from Catholic Athletes for Christ to put on a clinic for children; an appearance by Eduardo Verastegui, star of the movie "Bella"; and, in the evening, a band for teens and young adults.
Cavil's involvement in Relevant Radio, Esto Vir and Power of Life reflect his strong belief in the need for Catholics to engage the culture - the media, movies and the Internet - because, he said, the culture has been raising our children.
The result, he said, is that society has slid back morally, despite making numerous technological advances over the last several decades.
"If we care about our kids and our grandchildren - and who doesn't care for our kids and grandchildren - I think we owe it to them to take back the culture, to do what we can to stand up and be counted," Cavil said. That's something the Catholic faith calls people to do and the best way to do that is through the media, he said.
"Certainly, the personal one-on-one is very important, but just talking to a friend or complaining to a friend about something we don't like in our world today that's like throwing a stone at the Empire State Building. Are you really having any kind of impact?" he asked. "You're really not. So getting involved in different forms of the media I find particularly important."
Cavil, the eighth child of Bob and Janice Cavil, grew up with two brothers and nine sisters. "I had to use the Shell gas station for a restroom, right around the corner," he said.
The family lived around the corner from St. Philip Church in Green Bay - "With a good baseball arm you could throw a baseball and hit the parking lot." He recalls serving at the 6 a.m. Mass on snowy days when the only other people in church were the priest and the sisters. His favorite teacher at St. Philip School was his next door neighbor, Millie Vanden Heuvel.
At Premontre High School in Green Bay, he sang in choir and played the trumpet in the band, including the musicals Norbertine Fr. Guy Guyon directed. Another Norbertine, Fr. Conrad Kratz - who still offers Mass occasionally at Relevant Radio - was also a strong influence, Cavil said.
After earning an associate degree in metal fabrication from NWTC, Cavil worked 18 years at Robinson Metal in De Pere. In 1982, he married Robin Atkinson, and they have two daughters, Laura, 22, and Megan, 18.
He started Fox Valley Metal Tech in De Pere in 1989 with a brother and a brother-in-law. They sold the business in 2004, which has allowed him to dedicate his life to volunteering.