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Scouting and the Church: A natural fit

Archbishop Wenski, once a Cub Scout himself, recommends it as form of youth ministry

NORTH MIAMI | How good is Scouting? Good enough for an archbishop to recommend it.

That's what Archbishop Thomas Wenski ó himself a Cub Scout †while growing up in Lake Worth ó did at a dinner for pastors and principals, aimed at raising awareness of what Scouting can do both for individuals and communities.

"Scouting is a tried and true form of youth ministry that can really help connect young boys and young girls to their parishes and give them the opportunity to come out of themselves and relate to other people," he told his listeners at the Sept. 24 event, held at the North Miami Knights of Columbus Hall.

Nicolas Fernandez, Gabriel Seiglie and Isabelle Seiglie pose at the registration table where they spoke with attendees and handed out literature on Catholic Scouting.

Photographer: MELODY REGALADO | FC

Nicolas Fernandez, Gabriel Seiglie and Isabelle Seiglie pose at the registration table where they spoke with attendees and handed out literature on Catholic Scouting.

Besides the archbishop, the evening featured talks by Scouting leaders and young Scouts themselves. They covered topics like the religious emblems program, partnerships with community organizations, and building relationships with peers and parents.

For Scouts who are active in their faith and enrolled in either a religious education program or at a Catholic school, the religious emblems program helps them use their skills and values to earn signs of achievement that they can wear on their uniforms.

The emblems, promoted by the Catholic Committee on Scouting, are medals with names like Light of Christ, Parvule Dei (Children of God) and Ad Altare Dei (To the Altar of God). They are awarded for work ranging from workbooks to meetings and retreats, taking five to 18 months to complete.

On approval, the Scouts receive the emblems at a Mass, service or pack meeting. The insignia are pinned to the Scouts' uniforms along with a symbolic Religious Knot that they can wear over their left pockets.

The program parallels catechesis in Catholic schools and parishes, and even helps evangelize the children, said Annie Seiglie, chair for the Catholic Committee on Scouting.

"It's kind of like a sounding board where you're able to take that formation that they're receiving," Seiglie said. "The Scouting program affords them an opportunity to really live it outside of the classroom and youth group."

Catholic Scouting even fosters a young personís growth in virtue Ė "not just the theological ones of faith, hope and charity, but also the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and courage," Archbishop Wenski said. "Scouting is designed to help young people grow in those virtues."

Annie Seiglie discusses the goals of Catholic youth ministry as they relate to Scouts.

Photographer: MELODY REGALADO | FC

Annie Seiglie discusses the goals of Catholic youth ministry as they relate to Scouts.

Isabelle Seiglie, an eighth-grader at St. John Neumann School†in Kendall, spelled out the value of religious Scouting. "It gives me the opportunity to see different peopleís points of view by working together with my peers and with younger Scouts."

Some of those activities are painting, crocheting, camping, cooking and selling cookies with friends. Through reading Bible stories, working on service projects and taking a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Isabelle said she has drawn closer to God. She is also an altar server and member of the parish choir.

"While working on these programs, I have had to seek ways of sharing as a member of the Christian community," she said. "I have stretched myself to grow and experience new things in my faith."

"Adventure" experiences in Scouting, too, help grow faith, said Nicolas Fernandez, a junior at Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School†in Miami. He recounted taking part in the Saint George Trek last summer at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. During the trip, one of his advisors pointed out that Jesus changed the world with 12 guys ó the number of 12 Scouts who were gathered that night.

"That was really cool to think about, because 12 of us who never even knew each other 12 days prior all got together," Nicolas said. "And we were succeeding throughout this trek, a trek that challenged us both physically and mentally."

Apart from individual growth, speakers also discussed how Scouting promotes community and family. More than 40 parishes have chartered troops; more than 150 Scouts completed the religious emblems program last year, and 35 new Scouts entered the program this year.

"The Church provides a foundation of values also found in the Scout law," said Michael Dames, a director at the Boy Scouts of America. "It's natural for us to work together to help serve other people in the community."

Toward that end, Scouting also teaches youths to become leaders, said Gabriel Seiglie, a junior at Christopher Columbus High School†in Miami. In his 10 years of Scouting, he has earned four religious emblems and 33 merit badges. He has also attended nationally run Boy Scout leadership trainings, where he learned from respected leaders, he said.

"The foremost of these (teachings) was servant leadership, and the model of one of these trainings is 'primus inter pares,' Latin for 'first among equals'," Gabriel said. "Iím encouraged through the scouting program to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the prime example of both servitude and leadership.

"Iíve always felt a call to help others in whatever ways I can, and Scouting has given me the opportunity to do just that," he continued. "Scouting has taught me that servant leadership does not mean running ahead of the pack. Very often, it involves humbling oneself to be able to wash anotherís feet."

Archbishop Wenski encourages Scouting in parishes because, he said, although Americans may not be materially poor, they often feel the poverty of relationships in an age of virtual and technological friendships. Scouting helps youths to forge real relationships with real people, he said.

"As we try to help our young people come to a sense of themselves and a sense of their relationship with God in a world marked by a growing secularism, we can see how Scouting can be a very important tool in a pastorís toolbox," the archbishop said. "And for that reason, I continue to encourage Scouting."

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