Catholic Scouting – Scouting plus our Catholic faith
People often ask me what is Catholic Scouting and what makes it different from “regular” Scouting?
Many scouts enjoy the programs of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and learn to embrace and live by the tenets of the Scout Oath and Law. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”. BSA was founded by Lord Baden-Powell with a strong emphasis on the importance of our Duty to God and that is what we promote and encourage youth to embrace in our Catholic Scouting programs. Thus, scouts in packs, troops and crews work on the programs as set forth by the BSA and all of these include Duty to God components.
However, we come back to the question…what is Catholic Scouting?
First, the mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) is to “utilize and ensure the constructive use of the programs of the BSA as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation”. Camping, hiking and backpacking are key elements of the outdoor program offered by the BSA and it is through many of these activities that Scouts first discover and appreciate God in nature. When they see the wonders of a starry night, hike across a sparkling stream, swim in a mountain lake, scuba dive in the ocean, canoe around an island, view a doe and her fawns playing in a grassy meadow, hear a bull elk bellowing in the night or the howl of a distant coyote or simply marvel at God’s handiwork in a beautiful sunset, these all contribute to some of those initial stirrings of a respect for nature and God’s Creation.
As mentioned, BSA incorporates rank requirements related to Duty to God and Reverence, the 12th point of the Scout Law, in every level of Scouting, from Lions through Eagle. Thus, NCCS has created many resources for leaders and parents to use to help scouts fulfill these duties and learn more about our Catholic faith. These include various Religious Emblems and Religious Activities programs developed at the national level and additional programs, including Catholic Scout camporees, retreats, days of reflection, pilgrimages and chaplain aide training offered at the local diocesan level.
Religious emblems include Light of Christ and Parvuli Dei for Cub Scouts and Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII for older scouts. Although these religious emblems programs are not meant to substitute for parish religious education programs, they have become increasingly important as fewer families have their children enrolled in RE programs. According to a CARA report from 2015, only about 18% of youth who should be participating in parish religious education programs do so. Thus, our programs take on increasing importance for our Catholic Scouts. Through the Ad Altare Dei program, Scouts learn about the Sacraments of the Catholic Church and how they tie in with Scouting. The Pope Pius XII program challenges Scouts to examine their lifestyle, baptismal call and future vocation; including an examination of career and ministry options. In addition, each Scout examines a topic or societal issue and discovers how it may have an impact on their future life choices. Please visit this link on the NCCS website to learn more about these Religious Emblems programs.
Religious activities include many programs through which an individual, family, Scout unit etc. can learn about various aspects of our Catholic faith and traditions. There are 5 series that provide these learning opportunities–American Saints Series, Modern Saints Series, the Marian Series, the Rosary Series and the Faith Series. The programs are open to anyone who is interested in learning about the topic and brochures with questions and activities can be downloaded from the website. Patches representing completion of the activity can be purchased through the website but are not required. Please visit this link on the NCCS website to learn more about these programs.
Local activities created and implemented through our Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Committee on Scouting (PhxDCCS) include an annual Catholic Scout camporee/retreat, annual pilgrimage, involvement in the Arizona Rosary Celebration, promotion of vocations and support of the St. George Trek, annual Scout Emblem Recognition Ceremony, annual Bishop’s Dinner and more. For a description of upcoming events and a calendar, please visit the homepageHome.
How can my unit have a Catholic identity?
Many Catholic scouts are in units that are chartered by Catholic parishes or Catholic schools, but that in and of itself does not mean the unit has a Catholic identity. In order to have a Catholic identity, unit leadership should create an environment conducive to scouts learning about and experiencing our Catholic faith. This includes being an active part of the parish family.
- Scouts should participate in masses and liturgical activities by volunteering to hand out worship aids and bulletins, bring up the “gifts”, assist with ushering or serve as altar servers, lectors or Eucharistic ministers. This can be done more frequently than once a year on Scout Sunday.
- Scouts should provide assistance to parish ministries as needed–including serving at the parish festival, St. Vincent de Paul etc.
Jesus taught us to help others in need and the BSA Scout slogan is “Do a Good Turn Daily”. Being of service to others and performing service cheerfully is paramount.
- Opportunities for Scouts to earn their religious emblem and participate in Catholic activities, including the annual Scout camporee/retreat and patch programs should be made available.
- Meetings should open and close with prayer. Prayer can be of an interfaith nature but Catholic prayer is encouraged. Scouts should be given the opportunity to lead these prayers.
- Camping trips should include a time for a religious service on Sunday mornings–this can simply be a time for reverent reflection or include a liturgy with a reading, songs, prayers of the faithful etc.
- Unit leadership should be respectful of Catholic teaching and plan to return from weekend outings in time for Catholic Scouts to attend mass.. or attend mass while on the outing.
- Scouts and leaders should work to create a respectful, interactive relationship with clergy. This should include an annual meeting with the pastor to discuss the status of the unit and the Scouting program being offered. Invitations to priests and deacons to come to recognition events such as Pack Meetings and Courts of Honor are appropriate. Priesthood Sunday is a great time to thank your parish priests for their support of Scouting.
It is recognized that in most units, all Scouts and families are not Catholic, but support for the parish and Catholicity of the unit should be respected and in turn, respect for these Scouts and their families should also be maintained. Scouts of other faith traditions should be offered the opportunity to earn the religious emblem of their faith, to be Chaplain Aides in the unit and to participate in all events and activities mentioned.
Why a Catholic identity?
Many pastors, parochial administrators and parish priests want to see that the unit they charter is of benefit to Catholic youth. These Catholic programs and activities enhance the experience of the youth and will in turn demonstrate that Scouting is Youth Ministry.
BSA Reaffirms Duty to God
The National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America signed a resolution reaffirming the organization’s Duty to God at the 2018 National Annual Meeting. The text of the resolution is as follows:
WHEREAS the foundational values of the Boy Scouts of America are reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law
WHEREAS the first part of the Scout Oath declares “On my honor I will do my best to do my Duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;”
WHEREAS the Declaration of Religious Principle in Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America states that:
The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgement of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental of good citizenship should be kept before them.
WHEREAS the twelfth point of the Scout Law is Reverent and while the Boy Scouts of America is absolutely nonsectarian in its view of religious training, Reverent means that a Scout is faithful in his or her religious duties and respects the beliefs of others; and
WHEREAS these faith-based tenets have been a part of the Boy Scouts of America since it was founded and, notwithstanding any changes to Scouting programs, the commitment of the movement to Duty to God is unwavering;
Now therefore be it resolved that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America hereby reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle as a fundamental component of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.
Here is a link to a blog in Scouting Magazine related to this topic.
BSA Opens Programming to Girls of All Ages
GIRLS IN BSA PROGRAMS
This is not a new phenomenon–girls have been in BSA programs since 1973 with the advent of the Exploring program. The Venturing program–open to girls and boys ages 14-20, is celebrating 20 years. Crews can be comprised of all girls, all boys or co-ed. Sea Scouts and STEM scouts also include girls in their programs.
“Scout Me In”
Over the past few years, BSA has conducted various membership surveys and one result was that millennial parents overwhelmingly wanted a program in which the whole family could be involved; a program in which both boys and girls could participate. They cited the fact that in a majority of families both parents work and it would be much more convenient if the family could participate together in the same program. In an effort to meet that need, BSA launched the “Family Scouting Experience” this last spring. This program invites girls to join the Cub Scout program. Many siblings have attended the Pinewood Derby, camping trips and other events with their families but now they will be able to earn rank advancements and be an official part of the pack.
The decision on whether to offer Cub Scouts to girls is made by the Chartering Organization. The unit Key 3 should have a discussion with the Executive Officer to determine how they would like to make Scouting available to youth. A chartered partner can have an all boy pack, an all girl pack or a pack that has dens for both boys and girls. The girls and boys are to be in separate dens and work with their den leaders. Thus, there would potentially be two dens of each level; two Lion dens, two Tiger dens, two Wolf dens, two Bear dens etc.–one for girls and one for boys–each with their own leaders. If there are not many Scouts in some of the dens, three consecutive levels can be combined. For example, one Tiger, two Wolves and one Bear could function as one den for meetings, skits, games etc. but would still work on advancements for their level. All dens would come together for pack meetings and pack events.
During the Spring of 2018, BSA announced a name change to their older scout program…the program for youth ages 11-17. In the past the program has been referred to as “Boy Scouts”. There has been a misconception that the entire name of the Boy Scouts of America was changed but that is not the case.
In February 2019, all-girl troops will be formed for girls to join. Girls completing Webelos will cross over into troops comprised of other girls and 11 year old girls and older- not previously in Cub Scouts- will also be able to join a troop. Girls will NOT join boy troops but will instead have the opportunity to lead and excel in an environment with girls and the boys will be able to continue their leadership development and growth in all-boy troops. As a full member of Scouts BSA, girls will be able to attain all of the ranks, including Eagle, will have the opportunity to be members of the Order of the Arrow, and will have access to all BSA programs.