‘The Scouting program has fortified people who are able to recognize their challenges, gifts, and abilities’
By Dan McWilliams
Bishop Richard F. Stika continued an annual recognition of youth and adults in Scouting this year with an 8:05 a.m. Saturday Mass on March 7 at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus followed by a breakfast at the cathedral school.
The bishop began Mass by noting the special presence of uniformed Scouts in the assembly.
“As you can tell it’s not a normal Saturday morning Mass,” he said. “We pray with members of our Scouting program here. We give thanks to Almighty God for those who volunteer to lead our young men and women in the Scouting program, so we pray for them.”
Bishop Stika celebrated the Mass along with Father Martin Gladysz and with Deacon Robert Rust assisting.
In his homily, the bishop asked, “Isn’t a Scouting program that which teaches an individual how to go beyond maybe what’s expected, what the norm is, how to discover gifts that perhaps later on in life might actually save a life, if someone is choking or drowning, or you go hiking and you get lost?
“Skills to save, to save your own hide but also to save the life of another person. Scouting provides the ability to know what you can do, what you shouldn’t do, what you might need to work on to be able to accomplish. That’s the same thing in faith: to know what you should do, to know what you should not do.”
The bishop said that “we recognize these young men and women. . . . We recognize them because they have a willingness to learn, to learn outside the educational system, but also to have some fun, not that education is not fun, but to hang from trees and go canoeing and do all those things especially outside, where we see the beauty of God, in trees and streams and mosquito
bites—all these beautiful things that remind us of the beauty of God.”
Bishop Stika thanked all of the adult “volunteers, all the weekend warriors, the camp warriors, all the men and women who give so much because they maybe have been touched by the Scouting program.”
The bishop acknowledged that “the numbers of the Scouting programs are going down a bit, and that’s unfortunate, because for over 100 years the Scouting program has fortified people who are able to recognize their challenges, their gifts, and their abilities,” he said. “Just
like faith: the grace of God allows us to be fortified to recognize our gifts, our talents, our challenges, but also our God.”
At the end of Mass, all of the youths who had received a religious-emblem award came forward to receive a certificate and a greeting from Bishop Stika.
The bishop also spoke at the breakfast, held in the school art room.
“Scouts give you the ability to grow up, to learn what you can do, to fine-tune maybe things that you already know how to do,” he said.
“Stick with it. As you get older, you’re going to have all kinds of competition to do this, that, and the other thing.”
Bishop Stika said people can be like rivers, which wind around obstacles instead of going straight.
“If you become a person who takes the path of least resistance, like trying to go around it—that might be the smart thing to do sometimes, but other times it might be to climb over,” he said. “I think that’s what Scouting does.”
At the breakfast, the bishop presented adult-recognition awards along with John Sheridan, president of the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts and a cathedral parishioner, and Chris Manning, chairman of the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting.
Receiving Bronze Pelican awards for their service to Scouting were Bruce Pint, Jeffrey Turnmire, and Christina Pint.
St. George emblems, for contributing to the spiritual development of Scouts, went to Rachel LeBlanc, Kimberly Turnmire, and Scouting chaplain Father Dustin Collins.
The diocese again received the Quality Diocese Award from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, continuing a long tradition of earning that honor.
“On behalf of the Boy Scout council, I want to thank the bishop for his support of Scouting . . . on behalf of the volunteer leaders of Chattanooga and Johnson City and those councils, we thank you, Bishop, for your support,” Mr. Sheridan said. “As the bishop said, there are some challenges ahead for Scouting, but I want you to know that Scouting is alive and well in East Tennessee.
“We have 10,252 Scouts enrolled in various Scouting programs in our council right now, and we’ve got 2,600 volunteers. We’re moving ahead, and we’re hopeful that the past 100 years of Scouting will help us for the next 100 years.”