By Anne Marie Amacher
Award programs to help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts explore their faith and grow closer to God are available through the Diocese of Davenport’s Faith Formation department.
Pat Finan, diocesan scout contact and coordinator of youth and young adult ministry, said both the Boy Scout oath and Girl Scout promise mention a duty to serve God. He encourages leaders to learn about the various religious awards, especially those involving the Catholic faith.
Finan sets the example. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and various religious awards and now serves as chaplain for his son’s scout Troop 377 in Knoxville.
Father Ron Hodges, OSB, parochial vicar of St. Mary parishes in Pella and Oskaloosa, was appointed scout chaplain May 1 by Bishop Martin Amos. A former scout who also earned Eagle Scout rank, Fr. Hodges got back into scouting while at St. Meinrad Archabbey in the Diocese of Evansville, Ind. He believes scouting programs are good and their values are sound. “The fact that they respect various religious traditions and promote religion (through religious awards)” is a good thing. “We are there to help young men and women grow in their faith.”
Cub Scouts can earn the Light of Christ (ages 6 and 7) and Paruli Dei (ages 8-10) awards. Boy Scouts can achieve the Ad Altare Dei (ages 13-14) and Pope Pius XII (ages 15 and up). Adults in the Boy Scout program can earn the St. George Award.
Girl Scouts may earn Family of God (grades 2-3), I Live My Faith (grades 4-6), Mary, the First Disciple (grades 7-10) and The Spirit Alive (grades 9-12) awards.
Leaders interested in pursuing religious awards for their scouts must be compliant with diocesan safe environment policy and receive training to be able to offer the awards.
“We do have some trained leaders, but not enough,” Finan said. “We hope to provide diocesan training in the future. Scouts often pursue badges for things like cooking or canoeing, and adults with experience in those areas often are eager to guide the scouts. When it comes to faith, adults often feel inadequate to lead scouts in the pursuit of an award. We hope to lessen that obstacle by forming more adults who feel confident in preparing the scouts.”
He noted that if a scout doesn’t have a trained leader in his/her area, “we won’t let that stand in the way of them pursuing a religious award. All of the awards programs offer leader’s manuals to guide adults who work with youth. Sometimes we ask a parish director of religious education or even the pastor to mentor the adults who work with youth.”
On average, it takes at least three months to earn a religious award, although some of the awards for older scouts require a year to complete, he said.
Scouts often work in groups with other scouts, but about 20 percent of the awards are earned by scouts working alone. Often they are the only Catholic in their troop.
Currently Finan and Fr. Hodges are working to establish two scouting committees — one for Boy Scouts and one for Girl Scouts to train leaders who work with the scouts in the awards programs.
Finan also envisions a diocesan recognition Mass, Catholic scouting retreats and other events, but those will be driven by the needs and energy of the leaders.
“The main focus in our diocese has for many years been the earning of the emblems. This is wonderful, but my hope is that these programs guide girls and boys toward seeing their faith as an essential part of scouting and really, as a way of life. It’s more than just earning a medal or badge.
“My hope is that scouts and leaders will take more time to prioritize God and faith in what they do. For example, our troop does a good job of pausing for grace before meals. Oftentimes, campouts or events take place on Sunday, and hopefully leaders will remember that this is the Lord’s Day and at least provide an opportunity for scouts to worship God amid the fun and activity.”
The Diocesan Faith Formation Office oversees all aspects of Catholic scouting. Its primary function is to facilitate preparation for Catholic religious emblem programs.
Pat Finan, Barb Butterworth and Father Ron Hodges, OSB, serve as a resource to leaders needing materials or guidance in preparing youth, and as a source for emblems and pins. The staff is eager to provide other spiritual opportunities for scouts, with the interest and collaboration of their leaders.
Pat Finan is the contact for emblem programs, guidance on adult training and questions about preparation. He can be reached at email@example.com or (563) 888-4242.
Barbara Butterworth, administrative assistant, is the “go-to person” for the booklets needed to prepare scouts in these programs. She also processes the applications for medals and ships them. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563) 888-4240.
Father Ron Hodges, OSB. Contact him if you’re interested in organizing a special event or activity for Catholic scouts, or if you have a question or concern that your pastor can’t answer. Contact him at email@example.com or (641) 628-3078.
Anyone interested in serving on the diocesan committee on Catholic scouting or willing to collaborate in planning of a diocesan Scout Sunday celebration should contact Finan.