By ERIKA ANDERSON REDDING, Special to the Bulletin | Published April 5, 2018 | En Español
ATLANTA—For generations, Scouting has helped countless young people to grow in skills, values and integrity. Boys and girls have learned to love their country and live their lives with respect for nature—and one another. And for many Scouts, their experiences have helped them grow in their faith as well.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the annual Scout Mass March 24 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. The Mass, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic Committee on Scouting, recognized Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American
Heritage Girls who have earned their Scouting religious emblems. Archbishop Gregory was joined by several concelebrating priests, including Father John Kieran, who helped establish the committee five decades ago.
Archbishop Gregory welcomed those in attendance and said he was thankful for all who participate in Scouting.
“We take heart in the faith and patriotism they have learned, and we thank the Lord for all those who lead them, and of course, for their very proud parents and grandparents,” he said.
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory spoke of the intertwined love of country and God that Scouting teaches.
“They aren’t separate, really; they are united, and should be united in all of our hearts. We love this nation of ours, and we love it because we believe God has entrusted it to us—to all of us,” he said. “And we love God because he has created each and every one of us in our great diversity and our differences—all of us are his children. All of us belong to his family. And hopefully our Scouting programs continue to remind our young people of his great generosity, and his bounty and his love.”
The archbishop referred to the March for Our Lives and rallies for gun reform that were taking place the same day.
“Today, in the United States and in many other places around the world, an awful lot of young people are teaching a lesson to our adults. Our young people are calling us to work actively for peace and security—not just in our schools, but in our neighborhoods and our communities,” he said. “Young people are giving the adults another lesson—an important lesson, which reminds us of our dignity as human beings, and of our goodness and of the love God has for us and that God allows us to have for one another.”
Scouting programs help to build on the faith that participants first learn at home, Archbishop Gregory said.
“These young men and women have learned and continue to learn to love God and love country because their parents are teaching them and witnessing to them their own love for God and country. Scouting helps to fashion young souls and young minds and shape them and form them toward generosity and service,” he said. “For 50 years, young adults and some young people here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have tried to learn those lessons and tried to pass on those lessons one generation to another. You are our most recent graduates, and I hope you have learned those lessons and continue to learn those lessons with sincerity.”
Following communion, Archbishop Gregory presented the Scouts in attendance with their religious medals. Scouts, leaders and troops were given individual and group awards. Afterward, attendees gathered in Kenny Hall to celebrate their awards and the golden anniversary of the archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, At the reception, pieces of memorabilia from the last 50 years of Scouting were on display.
For many, Scouting has been an important part of their families’ stories.
Christine Peyroux, whose son, DJ, has special needs and is a member of the Boy Scout Troop from Transfiguration Church in Marietta, said Scouting has been an important part of DJ’s life.
“Being involved with the troop has been a lifeline for DJ, in many ways,” she said. “DJ is high functioning with special needs. Most people are not really unkind to DJ, but they don’t really include him, or go out of their way to talk to him, either. Scouting is a place where most kids are learning how to be kind and work with each other for a common goal. It is my hope and intention that people see how amazing DJ is, and what an incredible avenue Scouting could be for all people.”
Ynes Ortega, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, received the St. George Emblem at the Mass. This award is given to those who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the spiritual development of Catholic youths through Scouting. She has two grown sons who were both Eagle Scouts and said that Scouting brought them closer to each other—and their faith.
“(Scouting) helped them to build and form their values,” she said. “It helped my sons to grow in overall knowledge but also made them grow in spiritual ways through the values of the Catholic Church and the values of Scouting.”
Phil Krajec, who is chair of the archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, has been involved in Boy Scouts most of his life. His mom was his leader when he was young, and he’s been involved since his sons were in Cub Scouts. His daughter and two sons are now leaders.
“So my kids are third-generation Scout leaders,” he said. “I’d love to think I’d have been involved no matter what they chose to do, but Scouting has been a really cool thing for us—it’s been a unifying activity.”
Krajec, a parishioner of Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch, said celebrating the committee’s golden anniversary was a significant milestone.
“For the committee to thrive for this long and still have this kind of support from the Scouting community is pretty amazing,” he said.