Leaven reporter and Scout starts Catholic ministry at Camp Naish
by Katie Hyde
Bonner Springs — Joe Bollig has been involved in Boy Scouts for over 40 years, and he’s been Catholic even longer.
And as anyone who knows Bollig can tell you, after years as both a Leaven reporter and a Scout, he has developed a near encyclopedic knowledge of both.
He can explain at length the history behind his vintage 1960s-era Boy Scout field cap in the same sentence that he provides a detailed explanation of nuances in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Bollig was raised Catholic in Hays and is now a parishioner at Annunciation Parish in Baldwin City. He has been involved in Boy Scouts since the 1970s and served as assistant Scoutmaster and chaplain of Troop 65 of Baldwin City since the early 2000s.
According to Bollig, it was the combination of these two passions — Scouting and his faith — that made him well-suited to start a Catholic ministry at Camp Theodore Naish, a Boy Scout camp in Bonner Springs.
This summer, on his own initiative, Bollig began a small Catholic ministry at the camp, coordinating a Mass for Catholic Scouts at each session, distributing rosary packets and prayer books, and even informing Scouts how they could earn a badge for the Year of Faith.
Though there has been a long tradition of faith ministries in Boy Scouts, there had not been a Catholic Mass at Camp Naish since Bollig began camping there with his son Thomas in 2004.
After meeting other Catholic Scout leaders, Bollig discovered a widespread desire for a Catholic ministry at Boy Scout camp.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we get a Catholic religion program out here?’” Bollig said. “It just took someone who understood the pastors and their time commitments and the archdiocese, and who understood life here at camp.”
Though Bollig began the ministry at Camp Naish last summer, a sudden heart attack in June put his plans on hold.
“And then I had this heart attack,” said Bollig, with his characteristic dry wit. “This darn heart attack. It ruined my plans! Almost dying almost ruined my ministry at Camp Naish.”
But Bollig was determined to carry on, myocardial infarction not withstanding.
Over the past year, Bollig collected over 100 rosaries and prayer books with the help of his connections within the archdiocese. Kimberly Rode of the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation of adults helped Bollig gather materials. Deacon Dana Nearmyer, lead consultant of the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth, also helped Bollig with his preparations, as well as other volunteers from within the archdiocesan offices.
Bollig then reached out to Father Shawn Tunink, chaplain for the archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, as well as Father Jim Ludwikoski, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, to celebrate Mass during the three camp sessions at Naish.
The first Mass at Camp Naish, celebrated by Father Tunink on June 7, drew a crowd of more than 50 Scouts and Scout leaders. During his homily, Father Tunink connected the Gospel reading from Luke about Martha and Mary to the famous Scouting motto: Be prepared.
“We as Scouts know what Jesus is talking about when he distinguishes between having many things and having the one thing you need,” he said. “As we get better at Scouting, we become better at distinguishing what we really need.”
“If you’ve got God, you’ve really got all you need,” Father Tunink continued. “And maybe that’s the blessing of being a Scout. That by leaving behind all our things, we find the one thing we really need — Jesus.”
Bollig echoed Father Tunink’s sentiments following Mass as he distributed the rosary packets to the Scouts, explained their contents and, of course, showed off his Year of Faith badge.
“Camp is an excellent time for young hearts to find God,” said Bollig.
“It’s like a retreat,” said Bollig, tongue in cheek. “But with fire, knives, and axes. And raccoons that try to steal your food.”