There is a strong link between the Catholic faith and the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts, and it will be celebrated Saturday at the Archbishop Cousins Center.

The faith component among Catholic scouting groups was instituted in 1912, said Fr. Mark Carr, S.J., Scout Chaplain for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

“In 1912, Cardinal Farley gave permission to organize a troop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish,” he said. “In 1923, the Knights of Columbus adopted Scouting as its official program for boys. In that same decade, the Catholic Committee on Scouting was founded. Today, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting exists under the auspices of the USCCB.”

Scouts and adult leaders from a variety of troops and Cub packs will gather at the Cousins Center Saturday, April 1 at 4 p.m. for a Mass with Archbishop Jerome Listecki, ceremony and light supper, to honor those receiving religious emblems during the past year. Adult scouters and volunteers will also receive Catholic Awards during the ceremony.

Brian Johansen, Holy Family Cub Scout Pack 449, is excited for the banquet as his pack is receiving the Pope Paul VI Catholic Quality Unit Award for the second time. The award is presented to troops that meet several qualifications, such as religious emblem activities, service projects and vocation awareness.

“We earned the award last year, and are proud to have met the qualifications once again this year,” he said. “We are very excited to earn this, as not many packs complete all the requirements. Since we are affiliated with a Catholic school, we believe it’s very important to encourage the scouts to pursue their religious emblems. The work reinforces the things they learn at school. One of our previous leaders, John Gabik, invigorated our Pack by doing all the research and helping the other leaders along to earn this.”

Johansen’s Cub Scouts are doing well individually, too. Of the 30 in their pack, 15 are religious emblem recipients.

“During the five years of Cub Scouts, the boys can earn two awards, the Light of Christ for first and second graders and the Parvuli Dei, for third through fifth graders,” said Johansen.

By 1939, the Catholic Church, in collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America, made available the Ad Altare Dei emblem, the first religious emblem to Boy Scouts.

“Other faith traditions soon followed suit with their emblems,” said Fr. Carr. “The Scouting program is an important form of youth ministry in the Catholic Church, and has been so since close to the time of its founding. Especially though its religious emblem programs, the Girl and Boy Scouts help youth grow in their Catholic f aith.”

Fr. Carr joined the Cub Scouts in third grade and remained in scouting through high school. He earned the Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout and earned the highest award of Eagle Scout. Living the Scout Oath provided him a set of values that were easy for Fr. Carr to grasp as a youth.
“They reinforced the values taught to me by my family and the Church. Scouting values continue to guide me,” he said, adding, “Scouting also gave me a love for the outdoors. I continue to enjoy time in the outdoors and find it as an easy place to encounter God. As a priest, I stay involved with scouting as a chaplain, celebrating Masses at scout events and helping to promote Catholic scouting programs.”

As the Scout Chaplain, Fr. Carr celebrates Mass at some scouting events, assists with scouting retreats and works with the religious emblem programs.  Additionally, he sits on the National Catholic Committee on Scouting Executive Board and works with the regional chair to help support Catholic Scouting in Region 7, WI, IL and IN, and helps organize regional meetings where local diocesan Catholic committees can receive training and collaborate.

“Some summers I serve as chaplain at National Boy Scout Jamboree or Philmont Scout Ranch, the premiere Boy Scout high adventure base in the United States,” said Fr. Carr. “Here, the work is most similar to that of a parish priest, but the congregation is different. I celebrate daily Mass, offer some counseling and spiritual direction, visit the sick, hear confessions and sometimes, deal with crises.”

For the Girl Scouting program, the faith connection began close to when Juliette Low first brought Girl Scouts to the United States, explained Jacque Gozdowiak, member of the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts.

“She was a woman of great faith, and within a couple of years met with Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore to get his approval of connecting the movement with the Catholic Church and approving troops in the parochial schools with Catholic women as leaders,” she said. “Faith is an integral part of our Promise and Law, ‘On my honor, I will try to serve God and my Country, to help other people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.’ Juliette meant it to be faith based when she started the movement. The words in the Law may have changed over the years, but the meaning is still the same.”

While not all the 113 girls who received religious medals will be attending the Mass and dinner, the girls did receive their actual medals at their home parish from their priest or deacon.

“We offer a chance to celebrate their achievements at the Celebration of Scouting event each year with a bishop and a special commemorative patch that can only be received at this yearly event,” said Gozdowiak. “We are so blessed to have an archbishop that supports the efforts of leaders and parents of Girl Scouts in Milwaukee. There are generally more Boy Scouts of America Scouts getting medals, because growth in faith is part of their advancement program. Girl Scouts, being a secular organization, does not include it as a requirement for advancement.”

According to Gary Pokorny, director of the Office of Catechesis and Youth Ministry, approximately 55 parishes or Catholic schools sponsor Girl Scout troops in the archdiocese and about 70 parishes or Catholic schools sponsor Boy Scout units, with some including several age-related troops in each unit, such as Cub Scouts, Brownies, etc.

“However, it is important to keep in mind that Catholic young people who are scouts in troops sponsored by their public schools or civic organizations would also be eligible to earn the Catholic religious emblems and are welcome to take part in this (Archdiocesan) event,” said Pokorny. “This is the fifth event of this kind, with Adult Awards and with recognition of scouts who have received religious emblems in the past year. In the years before, the Catholic Committees on Scouting held an Awards Dinner for Adult Award recipients, families and friends. It was in 2013 that the committees worked with the Office of Catechesis and Youth Ministry to transform it into a larger event and to invite scouts and their families.”

The Scouts can earn religious emblems or recognition medals by completing activities in which they explore some aspect of the Catholic faith. The younger scouts work with their parents to earn the emblems or medals; while older scouts work with a counselor or mentor.

Additionally, the Pope Paul VI Catholic Quality United Award is given to Boy Scout units, such as Cub Packs or Boy Scout Troops that meet criteria established by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. At the event, the recipient receives a ribbon for their unit flag.

The annual recognition is important to the scouting groups as it builds on and affirms local efforts in parishes and schools, explained Pokorny.

“By inviting scouts, who have earned religious emblems, the event helps scouts and their parents realize they are part of something bigger. They see other scouts from other parishes for whom the Catholic faith is important too,” he said. “In addition, the adult award recipients are celebrated, not only by family and friends, but by the larger Catholic scouting community. Those adults, in turn, serve as examples for the parents and other scout leaders who gather. Everyone gets a taste of the broader archdiocesan Church. And coming together to celebrate Mass, we all recall that at the center of this activity and at the heart of our Catholic identity is the Eucharist.”

Publicly recognizing the Catholic dimension of scouting is important because it could be overlooked, said Pokorny.

“In our culture, faith is often assumed to be something individual and private,” he said, adding, “but being Catholic is not private. Scouts who earn the religious emblems and scout leaders who encourage them, are showing that faith is a part of everyday life. The emblems or medals that scouts earn are a reminder that the Catholic faith is important to them. Recognition ceremonies in their troop or in their parish affirm and encourage the scouts. This archdiocesan event aims to do the same, to affirm, celebrate and encourage scouts in their journey of faith.”