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Camp role a calling for Winnipeg family

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 09/29/2018 9:15 AM

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The Kautz family say they’re embracing their new role as host family at the Catholic School of Evangelization in St Malo. Left to right: Andrew, Julie, Benny, Libby, James, Ella, Dawn, Abby, and Michael.


The Kautz family say they’re embracing their new role as host family at the Catholic School of Evangelization in St Malo. Left to right: Andrew, Julie, Benny, Libby, James, Ella, Dawn, Abby, and Michael.


A Winnipeg family of nine who traded urban bustle for rural placidity say their move to the Southeast has given them a renewed sense of common purpose.

Parents James and Dawn Kautz said it’s been a whirlwind first five weeks in their new role as host family at the Catholic School of Evangelization, a camp and retreat centre in St Malo.

The live-in role includes welcoming rental groups and overseeing building maintenance at the camp, which can accommodate about 55 guests in its dormitory. Aside from a shared dining room, the family’s living quarters are separate.

"We’re like the backstage managers," quipped daughter Ella, who shared a couch with her six siblings, Abby, Andrew, Benny, Julie, Libby, and Michael.

For many of the children, who range in age from three to 18, it’s their first time in a new home. The family had resided in the same house in Winnipeg’s St Boniface neighbourhood since 2005.

Dawn’s roots are in Winnipeg, while James hails from Estevan, Sask. Both say they welcome the transition to rural life. They recalled the mounting pressure of errands, traffic, and extra-curricular activities that prompted them to reflect on their urban lifestyle.

Dawn said the "loud and busy and chaotic" environment left her "on the verge of burnout."

"It felt like we were going in nine different directions per night," she remarked.

When the host family position opened up in July, the Kautzs said they felt called to slow down and embark on a common mission as a family.

"To me, it feels like a healing year for us," Dawn said.

In the span of six weeks, they rented out their house, decluttered and packed their belongings, and headed south on Highway 59.

"It all fell into place," Dawn said. "It’s been a lot of work, but very freeing."

James said he doesn’t mind the handyman labour he completes each week on top of his customer service job with a Winnipeg moving company.

"If it’s your home, you care for it, so it doesn’t feel like janitorial work," he noted.

He drives the oldest two children to high school in Winnipeg, while the three younger school-age siblings attend St Malo School.

"They just need to walk through the fence to the schoolyard," Dawn said.

The youngest two stay home with their mom, who said she appreciates the many low-cost recreation activities available locally. Making the most of late summer, the family explored the Rat River and slept outside in hammocks. Their backyard afforded a front row seat to the St Malo summer festival.

"I’m amazed by how many community options there are here," said Dawn.

The children said it’s been an adjustment falling asleep without the usual din of the city outside their bedroom windows. But seven-year-old Benny noted the many-roomed building makes for excellent games of hide and seek.

James said having a chapel just steps away has benefitted the family’s spiritual life. The couple views the nuclear family as an important vehicle for evangelization, which they said makes the camp’s missionary host family model a natural fit.

The family’s commitment to the role extends to next June, and can be renewed. James and Dawn encouraged other urban families mulling a move to the country to be unafraid to try something different.

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