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Scouting is Youth Ministry

Mar 27

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3/27/2010 12:36 PM  RssIcon

There are some parts of my job that are just so cool.  (Actually, truth be told, there are lots of those parts!)  Today was one of them.  I attended the 36th annual Religious Awards Ceremony for the Catholic Committee on Scouting in the Diocese of Buffalo.  Scouting is one form of youth ministry in our diocese, and our department is happy to support and work with the Diocesan Catholic Committee to encourage and foster Catholic scouting in our diocese.

The annual Religious Awards Ceremony is a chance to recognize all the scouts (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) who are receiving religious emblems.  The religious emblem programs for Catholic scouts provide opportunities for youth to learn more about aspects of their Catholic faith.  There are four emblem programs in both Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting for youth of various ages.  For Girl Scouts, the programs are:  Family of God; I Live My Faith; Mary, the First Disciple; and The Spirit Alive.  For Boy Scouts, the programs are:  Light of Christ; Parvuli Dei; Ad Altare Dei; and Pope Pius XII.  Scouts who earn all four of the emblems in their branch of scouting earn the Bishop's Scouting Award from our diocese. I was so impressed to see all the scouts, their families and their leaders gathered at St. Joseph Cathedral this morning for this ceremony.  Congratulations to the 110 young men and women who received at least one of these awards, and especially to the six young people who received the Bishop's Scouting Award!  You are good news for our diocese!

Scouts who work on these religious emblem programs learn more about themselves, our church and their faith.  They explore themes such as the sacraments, Mary as a model of discipleship, the Holy Spirit's role in their lives and their vocation as disciples who give witness to their faith.  These programs are excellent examples of comprehensive youth ministry.  The programs are catechetical in nature; they help youth know and live their faith, and they encourage youth to develop a life in which prayer and worship are core elements.  Catholic scouts who work on these emblem programs have an opportunity to evangelize others - their peers, and even their families.  Scouts who engage in the additional work for these emblems show themselves to be leaders, and the emblem programs help them to develop their leadership skills.  Because the emblem programs are situated within the scouting program, there are certainly elements of community life, service, and pastoral care for youth from caring adults that helps young people develop positive assets and avoid at-risk behaviors.  Presenting these religious emblems at this wonderful annual ceremony is one way that we advocate for youth, showcasing their gifts, hard work and leadership abilities for our church and community.  Truly, Scouting - especially through the religious emblems programs - is youth ministry!  We celebrate and give thanks for all that Catholic Scouting brings to our diocese and for all the young lives touched by scouting.

I encourage all church leaders - especially youth ministry leaders in our parishes - to become familiar with and support the Scouting religious emblems programs.  Pastors have an excellent opportunity to encourage young parishioners involved with scouting to pursue the religious emblems.  Youth ministers can strengthen the comprehensive ministry they coordinate in their parish by connecting with scout troops and leaders.  If the scouting troops at your church don't currently engage in the religoius emblem programs, youth ministers can become religious emblem counselors and work with the scouts on these programs.  If your parish doesn't sponsor scout troops, a parish youth minister (or other adult volunteer) can still reach out to area troops to offer the opportunity for the Catholic scouts in those troops (your parishioners!) to work on the religious emblems for their faith tradition.  At the very least, youth ministry leaders and catechetical leaders should avail themselves of the resources and activity ideas in the religious emblem program leaders guides.  These are inexpensive resources that contain great, practical ideas that can be incorporated into parish religious education classes, youth nights, or retreats.

Today was a good day for scouting in our diocese, and a good day for youth ministry in our diocese.  At events like today's ceremony, we see young people who freely share their gifts and energy with our church and their communities.  I am grateful for their energy, faith and dedication, and I thank them for offering a sign of hope to our church.

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