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

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

From left, Hidekatsu Sato, International Commissioner of Japan Catholic Conference of Scouting, with Scouts Seikichi Yashiro and Yu Tsukamoto, along with two scoutmasters in Japan. This photo was taken before the boys set out for the 2012 Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage sponsored by the Diocese of Fort Worth Catholic Committee on Scouting. For 2014, the committee hopes to continue the international effort.
From left, Hidekatsu Sato, International Commissioner of Japan Catholic Conference of Scouting, with Scouts Seikichi Yashiro and Yu Tsukamoto, along with two scoutmasters in Japan. This photo was taken before the boys set out for the 2012 Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage sponsored by the Diocese of Fort Worth Catholic Committee on Scouting. For 2014, the committee hopes to continue the international effort.

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.

In 2012, the second time the pilgrimage took place, local Boy Scouts under the leadership of John Ryan made a bold move to invite their counterparts from Japan.

Through divine intervention and a lot of hard work, a partnership was forged and two Scouts from Japan, Seikichi Yashiro and Yu Tsukamoto, made their way to the United States to join local boys on the pilgrimage.

In e-mail correspondence with the North Texas Catholic, Seikichi said he thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Scouts in America and strengthened his faith through the experience of the Catholic pilgrimage. “I felt Scouts all over the world were connected,” Seikichi said. “I was able to change in many ways.”

Local Boy Scout Michael Shipman of Keller, whose family was one that hosted the Scouts from Japan, said, “At first, I didn’t know what to expect. But we really had a lot of fun. We’re all young men, and we discovered we have common interests.”

Those interests included hiking around the canyons, mesas, and mountains of New Mexico, exploring historical churches and meeting others from around the world at Philmont Scout Ranch. All the while, the Japanese Scouts learned more about the holy figures discussed during the pilgrimage and introduced Fort Worth area Scouts to St. Paul Miki. Crucified in Japan for his belief in Christ, this Jesuit was forced to march 600 miles to his death. Through it all, St. Paul Miki preached to the crowds that turned out to mock him, and the Jesuit held steadfast to his faith.

Communications challenges were overcome with the help of computer translation applications and the assistance of Scout Leader Dale Shipman, who has spent time in Japan, and called on his sister, who is familiar with the culture and the language, for assistance.

Scouts and leaders both in Japan and in the Diocese of Fort Worth have maintained contact, and two more Scouts from Japan are expected to join the pilgrimage for 2014. Transportation for the earlier trip was provided by people who donated airline mile credits for tickets. Ryan is working hard to obtain donated miles again this year.

Local Scouts continued their relationship with Scouts in Japan by sending hundred of rosaries to them. The Japanese Scouts incorporated them into a “Holy Rosary Program” to help youngsters strengthen their faith.
Local Scouts continued their relationship with Scouts in Japan by sending hundred of rosaries to them. The Japanese Scouts incorporated them into a “Holy Rosary Program” to help youngsters strengthen their faith.

As a tangible way to reach out to the Scouts in Japan and maintain a spiritual bond, Ryan has shipped hundreds of rosaries to them. The rosaries were made and donated by Sacred Heart Rosary Makers of Muenster.

Hidekatsu Sato, international commissioner of Japan’s Catholic Conference of Scouting, based in Tokyo, told the North Texas Catholic, through interpreting help provided by Ryan, that the rosaries were treasured by their recipients. They are part of a “Holy Rosary Program” in Japan, designed to help Scouts learn to pray the Rosary. Sato said his office distributed the rosaries to 25Scout troops in the Tokyo area.

Sato also worked closely with Ryan to find the right Scouts and prepare them for their trip to Fort Worth and the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage in 2012. Impressed by the follow-up reports from the Scouts on their return, Sato said he is eager to continue the relationship and hopes one day for an exchange program.

John Cuccaro, chairman of the Diocese of Fort Worth Catholic Committee on Scouting, also serves on the International Committee for the Boy Scouts of America Longhorn Council. Cuccaro said when Ryan first proposed his idea on the pilgrimage and involvement with Scouts from Japan, it was met with widespread approval of the Scouting community, eager to build international friendships.

“There’s no better way to do that than face-to-face,” Cuccaro said. “Footsteps of the Saints is a wonderful Catholic experience for Scouts, and at the same time it shows them they are part of a very large Scouting family.”

In the end, no matter the nationality of a Scout, the message from the Footsteps of the Saints Pilgrimage is the same, Cuccaro said.

“This fits so well with Catholic Scouting,” Cuccaro said, “because you can draw parallels with how the Saints lived their lives and the tenants of our Scout law, which is basically to honor God and to live a pure and honorable life.”

For more information about the Scouts’ pilgrimage, visit their website.

See Also

Saints provide moral compass for local Boy Scouts

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.

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.

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