By Dan McWilliams
The Knoxville Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting held its 17th annual Bishop’s Gathering and Adult Recognition on April 8 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The day began with morning Mass, followed by a breakfast in the school cafeteria.
Bishop Richard F. Stika presided at Mass, which was concelebrated by Scouting chaplain Father Dustin Collins. Deacon Walt Otey assisted, along with reader Blaine Liuag and cantor Elizabeth McCready.
In his homily, Bishop Stika asked “how is the season of Lent related to the Scouting program?”
“Because it builds character,” he said. “The season of Lent hopefully has made a difference in your life, now that we’re close to the beginning of the celebration of Holy Week with Palm Sunday and all the other activities that will occur.
In the Church, Jesus has invited us to use these days to step back and reflect on who we are and how we interact with our world as a person of faith.
“The Scouting program is the same, even though it has some major challenges on a national level. Here in the diocese we have a wonderful program in which we work with young men and women in order to build character, to allow them also to see who they are in relation to the world that surrounds them, to see the talents and the gifts that God has given to them in order to build the world as a better place.
“So as we gather together this day we thank almighty God for those involved in the Scouting program, all the different activities that they are involved in but also the many volunteers. We pray that the Lord may always bless them. . . . We gather together this day to thank those involved in the Scouting program, and we ask God to continue to bless them, especially the benefactors of those who will guide the younger generation, for someday that younger generation will be involved and invited to do the same thing.”
At the breakfast George LeCrone Sr., chair of the diocesan Scouting committee, presented Bishop Stika with the Quality Diocese Award from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. The diocese has received the award for 14 consecutive years.
Mr. LeCrone spoke of the importance of having Bishop Stika present at the event.
“Bishop is the president of our organization,” he said. “His support means the world to me because I don’t make decisions without checking with him first, because he is our president, and he can say whether Scouting is involved in the diocese or not. He can pull the plug tomorrow, which some bishops have done. But our bishop is supportive of the program, supportive of all the Catholic youth and so forth, so we’re definitely pleased to have him here.”
At the breakfast, a special Scouting stole was presented to Father Collins by the bishop and Mr. LeCrone.
“We in our committee feel that our chaplain, whether it be a priest or a deacon, should have the ability to show their support of the program, and the stole is something the National Catholic Committee does for all the national priests involved, and so I feel that our diocesan priests should have the same thing,” Mr. LeCrone said. “I personally get that stole, and we put the patches on for the areas that we cover, and we think it’s an important part of the program. He can wear it whenever he does our Masses at Camporees and things like that. When he puts that on, everybody knows that he’s our chaplain.”
Speakers at the breakfast included Nate Cunningham, director of field service for the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Anthony Ingram, district director for the Great Smoky Mountain Council; and Nancy Johnson, who is on the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians.
Mr. LeCrone said during the breakfast that the Scouting committee presented 42 religious awards in 2016, a number that represents a steady decline since 2014.
“With your help, we can continue to work to improve these numbers within our youth groups,” he said.
At the end of the breakfast, Mr. LeCrone presented the St. George Emblem to cathedral rector Father David Boettner.