By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CLINTON — Father John Stack smiled as he stood before the congregation at Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish, taking note of seven scouts wearing badge-filled sashes. “One Eagle Scout is an extraordinary achievement, but we have seven we’d like to recognize,” he said at the beginning of Mass on Feb. 2.
Troop 1 scout leader Bob Milroy admitted it was an unusual feat; only 4 percent of Scouts BSA earn the highest attainable rank, he said. Over the past 13 years, 14 young men have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Seven of those men are from this year’s group.
Milroy attributed the young men’s dedication to good-old-fashioned FOMO, or fear of missing out. “They’re a close knit bunch,” he told The Catholic Messenger. “No one wanted to be the one not to get it!” “You’re not wrong,” replied Seth Empen, one of the new Eagle Scouts.
Requirements to achieve the Eagle Scout rank include earning 21 merit badges and leading a service project. The young men’s projects benefitted Prince of Peace and other Catholic and secular institutions in Clinton. Eli Eggers completed a landscaping project at the northern entrance of the church, Noah Eggers led the installation of a cement pad and fence at St. Irenaeus Cemetery, Seth Empen created a raised garden bed for the Sisters of St. Francis while Evan Empen refurbished a gazebo. Matthew Hardigan made a dumpster enclosure at the church, Jack Marlowe build benches for Clinton’s community garden and Kyle Kitteringham installed a bike rack at the Sawmill Museum.
During Mass at the parish Feb. 2, Father Stack asked God to bless the Eagle Scouts. “May they always uphold the ideals of scouting and promote them in their lives. May they be examples of honesty, hard work and commitment to excellence as they demonstrate by words and actions those values which make our nation great.” Father Stack thanked God for “the opportunity to come together today to celebrate life and to celebrate our youth growing into adulthood.”
Father Stack also recognized Milroy and assistant scoutmaster Bart Vanderbleek for the 18 years they dedicated to the scouting program at Prince of Peace.
While the day was joyous for the young men and their families, it was also bittersweet. Milroy said Troop 1 will discontinue after this year due to lack of parental participation at the lower levels. When Milroy and Vanderbleek moved from Cub Scout leaders to Scouts BSA leaders, no one replaced them at the Cub Scout level, so the program folded. Now, there are no younger scouts to move into the older scout program.
Milroy said the program could not have continued as long as it did without the help of parent volunteers. Vanderbleek added, “They were always there to help.” The men are hopeful that in the future someone might step up to lead a new troop and recruit the minimum five scouts needed to form it.