Catholic Herald Staff
The Troops of St. George are a band of fathers and sons who participate in outdoor excursions aimed to help them grow in friendship, virtue and faith. As a Catholic non-profit, their slogan — Virtus. Honor. Fraternitas. — captures the focus of cultivating faith, virtue and adventure in the young men and fathers who join.
In full fidelity to Church teaching, the outdoor apostolate focuses on teaching young men outdoor skills like archery, marksmanship, fishing and survival skills. They celebrate Mass ad orientem outdoors and pray the rosary together kneeling around the campfire at their outings.
Originally founded in Texas in 2013, the Milwaukee troop started four years ago out of St. Stanislaus Parish; the chaplain is Canon Benoit Jayr.
Similar to other fraternity groups for young men and women, the Troops of St. George have an oath, motto, a specific salute and laws to live by.
However, the organization is unique because sons cannot enroll in the program unless they are accompanied by their father. The father-son dynamic is fundamental. They study Proverbs, the book of the Bible that speaks of daily life wisdom. The Troops also published their own field manual, to aid the troop members as they complete their troop requirements.
The ultimate goal of the Troops is not just to build character and outdoors skills but to inspire and equip men to be holy, for both the sons and the fathers.
Paul Tadda, the captain of the Milwaukee squad, said, “Here is a group of fathers banding together to ensure that we can raise our boys in the traditions of the Catholic faith and to become Catholic gentlemen — sacrificial with their families, with their country, and with the faith.”
Last year, the troop consisted of 84 members from 32 different families. The sons, who are cadets in the program, wear uniforms and elect non-commissioned officers from among the older students. The field requirements vary based on grade level, and the Troops offer achievement courses that expand beyond the field skills they seek to learn and master, like a course on dignity of the human person.
When Tadda goes on the camping trips with the Troops, he said, “I look back at the weekend, I look back at the time I spent with my son, I look at the time I spent with other like-minded fathers, and it is always energizing, exhilarating, and powerful for my faith and also for my relationship with my son.”
They give a “powerful witness” by praying outdoors, participating in Mass, pitching tents and saying the rosary.
At various Troops events, personal skills are shared alongside faith. “It enriches your faith by learning how someone else pictures their faith or deals with their struggles as a father or deals with their faith struggles, all of that which comes out through conversations, through faith sharing time. That is always powerful,” Tadda said.
Tadda said the excursions provide an opportunity to “build a relationship of fun” for fathers and sons, adding that the outdoor circumstances create challenges and inconveniences like the rain and cold, but “those times of showing my son how to be resilient … are wonderful to experience.”
Though he is the captain of the troop, Tadda explained that the fathers involved encourage him in his role because they are a great group of men committed to having an active role in their families.
“We are there to be the best father we can be,” he said. “It is also trying to be the best husband we can be and just raising everyone’s level, egging each other on in a good way just by purely hanging out with each other and having the goal that Troops sets for you.”
The mandatory requirements are easily attainable and spiritually based. And growth in faith, Tadda emphasized, is the core of the Troops.
“You never have enough time if you think about it,” he said. But by making Troops a priority and fulfilling the requirements together as a father-son pair, Tadda said, “It’s just setting up so many opportunities for you to be a better man, a better father, and to give your son the best shot he has to be the best man he can be.”
From more information about the Troops of St. George, visit troopsofstgeorge.org or tsg1683.org for the Milwaukee troop.