Saints provide moral compass for local Boy Scouts

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

Scouts and their leaders gathered in 2012 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, for a group picture with Tooth of Time mountain peak as a backdrop. The Scouts will head back to the high-adventure Scout ranch this year.

Scouts and their leaders gathered in 2012 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, for a group picture with Tooth of Time mountain peak as a backdrop. The Scouts will head back to the high-adventure Scout ranch this year.

The Greek word “heroes” originally referred to a person who, in the face of danger, displayed outstanding courage, high moral standards, and a willingness to sacrifice himself, if need be, for the good of humanity.

It really had nothing to do with home runs, goals scored, or superhuman strength.

Boy Scouts in the Diocese of Fort Worth apply the former definition to their heroes, and they respect these qualities in such holy figures as St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, recently-canonized St. John Paul II, Blessed Father Junipero Serra, Blessed Carlos Rodriguez, and Venerable Father Michael McGivney.

All of these holy figures endured great hardships throughout their lives but achieved great moral victories for those they served in the name of God.

For a full week, July 31 through Aug. 6, about 50 teenage Scouts will look to these heroes for spiritual guidance as they embark on a 1,500-mile round-trip “Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage,” hosted by the Diocese of Fort Worth Catholic Committee on Scouting. This will be the third such outing undertaken by the diocesan Scouting group, with the others held in 2007 and 2012.

This year, the pilgrimage will take Scouts on a faith journey from North Texas to the Texas Panhandle, then on to Sante Fe and continuing through the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains to Cimarron, New Mexico. Along the way, as they learn more about holy men and women of our faith, they will visit with bishops, priests, nuns, Native Americans, and Scouts from around the world.

“This is an overall great experience for young men,” said 16 -year-old Boy Scout Michael Shipman of Keller. Shipman speaks from experience, having also attended the 2012 outing. “Scouting is a great program, and the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage really shows how Catholicism and Scouting are intertwined.”

The similarity begins, Shipman said, with the saints who are central to the pilgrimage. These were people who maintained solid moral character, stood up for what was right, and remained reverent toward God — just like Scouts.

“They are heroes,” the Boy Scout stressed, “but not like the characters you read in comic books, but real heroes. These saints really did something extraordinary. They set a path and precedent for other people to follow. They’re great role models.”

When you combine learning about the saints with fun and adventure, it’s an unbeatable combination, according to Shipman. He said he is looking forward to being in the great outdoors and “seeing God’s beauty in nature.”

One of the first stops for Scouts on the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage will again be the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian in Amarillo.

One of the first stops for Scouts on the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage will again be the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian in Amarillo.

Highlights of the Scouts’ adventure include a stop in Amarillo at the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian. Here they will learn about the Native American Pueblo and Plains cultures.

The Scouts will also visit three churches in Santa Fe, including the San Miguel Mission, built in the early 1600s and reported to be the oldest church in the United States. They will also visit St. Francis Cathedral and Loretto Chapel. It was at this site where the sisters at the chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. They sought a staircase for access to the choir loft of the chapel. On the ninth and final day of their novena, a man arrived by donkey. Carrying a toolbox, the newcomer was ready to take on the task. After a few months, he completed a magnificent spiral staircase with no visible support structure. Before they could thank him, the carpenter disappeared. The sisters view the incident was nothing short of a miracle, and the world still marvels at the staircase and the ingenious way it was designed and built, using wood from trees that did not grow within several days travel of the chapel.

This year, Scouts will explore cliff dwellings at Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico as they did here in 2012.
This year, Scouts will explore cliff dwellings at Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico as they did here in 2012.

After Santa Fe, the Scouts will travel to Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The monument is actually 33,000 acres of rugged canyons and mesas. Scouts will hike, explore cliff dwellings, and view petroglyphs, or rock engravings, giving testimony to human presence here that dates back 11,000 years.

The Scouts will also visit nearby El Santuario de Chamayo, a small shrine visited each year by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world. Discarded crutches, canes, and wheelchairs give testimony to the miracles that many attribute to the powerful presence of God’s compassion and love at the sanctuary.

Before they head home, Scouts will also spend a few days at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Here they will attend Mass at an outdoor chapel and meet up with hundreds of Scout leaders and dozens of Catholic clergy gathered for a special training conference.

Twenty-five-year-old Ian Myers, of Arlington, was a teenager when he attended the first Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage in 2007. “It was very powerful,” Myers said. “And it was a great way to experience faith in action.”

One of the most powerful moments, Myers said, came when Scouts performed a “living Rosary” at the Philmont Scout Ranch. This involved the teens forming themselves into the shape of a rosary. When each boy said one of the Rosary prayers, he lit a glow stick to represent a bead. By the end, the Scouts were an integral part of the Rosary.

John Ryan, who coordinates the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage with the help of Myers and dozens of other volunteers, has set high standards for the outing and expects it will have a great impact on the young men attending.

“We are trying to make this the greatest single Catholic Scouting experience in their lives,” said Ryan, who has a combined total of 45 years, from youth to adult, with Boy Scouts of America.

“We will be totally immersed in our Catholic faith, and we’ll be learning about the saints and how they persevered.”

Leaders are also dedicating themselves, Ryan said, to keeping the pilgrimage full of fun and outdoor adventures for the teenage boys taking part. In the process, Ryan said he hopes Scouts come away with insight into the character it requires to face adversity, make wise choices, and remain faithful to God.

“In life, they’re going to have peaks and valleys, just like these saints. There will be times for them when life will be tough. There will be temptations along the way, and they’ll have to make choices on which direction to go — the good road or a bad road.

“In times of trouble, we want them to look toward the saints as role models, because they have gone through tremendous challenges, and they can show us how to persevere.”

See Also

Japanese Catholic Scouts walk side-by-side with local youth on adventurous faith journey

The Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage, which started as an idea to deepen the faith of Catholic Boy Scouts in the Diocese of Fort Worth, is enriching the spirituality of Scouts 6,500 miles away in Japan.

 

 

Boy Scouts in the Diocese of Fort Worth apply the former definition to their heroes, and they respect these qualities in such holy figures as St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, recently sainted St. John Paul II, Blessed Father Junipero Serra, Blessed Carlos Rodriguez, and Venerable Father Michael McGivney.

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