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Scouts celebrate a year of firsts at Scouting religious awards Mass

Matt Thomas, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 6067 in Lenexa and a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, accepts the Bronze Pelican adult leader award for his contributions to Catholic Scout development over the last year. Thomas created the online Ad Altare Dei program for the archdiocese, focusing on making the award more accessible to Catholic girls and boys in non-Catholic BSA chartered troops. PHOTO BY FAITH THOMAS

KANSAS CITY, Kan. —  For Catholic Scouting in the archdiocese, 2021 marked a year of celebration and innovation. Even though troops took precautions, limited their activities and kept social distancing due to COVID-19, their leaders got creative in bringing respective Catholic enrichment programs to their youth.

At the annual Scouting Awards Mass held at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, on April 18, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and concelebrant Father Shawn Tunink celebrated the Eucharist and the accomplishments of Scouts in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

This Mass was the culmination of a year of firsts for both the American Heritage Girls (AHG) program and Scouts BSA (formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America).

In 2020, two new Catholic-focused awards were launched in the AHG program: Ten girls earned the Deus et Civita Mea (God and My Community) award at the Pioneer level; and four girls earned the Femina Integritatis (Woman of Integrity) award at the Patriot level.

“I am so proud that despite COVID-19, we were able to launch the very first year of the new American Heritage Girls Catholic faith awards,” said Tonya Gast, AHG KS0138 leadership mentor and chair pro tempore of the Catholic Committee of Scouting for the archdiocese. “These programs have never been taught before, so it was a real accomplishment to not only teach them for the first time, but to do it creatively through Zoom classes. There were challenges, of course, but the benefit was that we brought together girls from various geographic areas so they could complete the classes with girls their age.”

At the adult level, five leaders earned the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton award for their service in bringing Catholic ideals to the girls in the program.

In 2020, the Catholic Committee on Scouting launched an online program for the Ad Altare Dei (To the Altar of God) award through the homegrown efforts of volunteers in the archdiocese, and the newly launched online AAD manual by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Typically, AAD classes are held in person over an eight-week period. However, due to the pandemic, most troops paused in-person classes. In the end, 29 Scouts earned their AAD award (27 online; two in person).

Even more special is that this event marked the first-time since girls were welcomed into the Scouts BSA program in 2019, that seven girls in the archdiocese have earned their AAD.

“This year was pretty special, and I send my congratulations to all of the Scouts who took a leap of faith and joined the online AAD program, especially the seven trailblazing girls who are new to the Scouts BSA program,” said Matt Thomas, creator of the online AAD program and assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 6067 in Lenexa. “Creating the online program as an outreach to Catholic Scouts in non-Catholic troops was a big win for Catholic Scouting in our region.”

Additional recognitions included one Scout who was recognized with the Pillars of Faith award for earning all Catholic religious emblems offered in the Cub Scout and Scout BSA programs. A Cub Pack and Scout Troop were also recognized for earning the Pope Paul VI Catholic Unit of Excellence award.

At the adult level, three leaders earned the Bronze Pelican award for service to Catholic Scouting, and one leader earned the St. George award, which recognizes adults for their continued commitment to the Catholic Scouting program.

“I am so thankful that we took the leap of faith and brought these kids together for the AHG and BSA faith awards,” said Gast. “Planning the retreat was a little nerve-wracking at times, but Prairie Star Ranch . . . came through for us and helped us hold a beautiful retreat. Looking out at the  cathedral full of Scouting youth and their parents was an awesome sight.”

Coming up

American Heritage Girls: Registration for the Catholic Faith awards will be held in August, with an in-person kickoff night in September.

Boy Scouts of America: Scouts should check with their troop to see if they will be conducting AAD sessions. They may also contact the Catholic Committee on Scouting to help find them a class. They will also hold online classes once again for Catholic Scouts in non-Catholic units. Sign-up will start in August and conclude with the Holy Smokes family campout on Sept 10-12.

For more information about Catholic Scouting in the archdiocese, visit the website at:

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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