Local Youth & young adult

Scouts hand out awards at annual Mass

American Heritage Girls Patriot Elaine Gast, 15, helps Tenderheart Madeline Ehler, 7, with an outdoor skills and first-aid activity during the AHG Taste of AHG KS0138 sign-up event Sept. 8 at Holy Trinity School in Lenexa. The event had several activity stations in the school cafeteria, as well as a chalk art area outside the building. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATIE PETERSON

by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Another year of Scouting in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas came to a close just in time for its new year to open when the annual Catholic Scouting Awards Mass was held Sept. 27 at the Cathedral of St. Peter here.

Normally held in April each year, the Mass was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scout awards included two American Heritage Girls Spirit Alive Awards, 15 Ad Altare Dei Awards, seven Pope Pius XII Awards and five Pope Paul VI National Catholic Unit Excellence Awards.

Adult awards included two Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards, three Bronze Pelican Awards and one Echo of Kateri Award. A special recognition — the St. John Paul II Award — was also presented to Gary Smith for his nearly 25 years of service to Scouting. He has served as the chair of the Catholic Committee of Scouting for the archdiocese for the past six years and will be retiring later this year.

“Scouting offers boys [and girls] the opportunity to fail safely and to learn from failure, which I think is tremendously underestimated in our society. Failure is valuable if you use it as a learning tool, and I had the opportunity to do that [as a young Scout],” Smith said. “I made a promise as a little 8-year-old that I would help people at all times and I recited that at every Scout meeting. And it has become one of my daily prayers now. Scouting weaved a way of thinking in my life that I just couldn’t walk away from.”

“We have a saying in Scouting that you always leave your campsite better than when you found it,” he continued. “I’m praying that I’m leaving the committee better than when I found it.”

Father Scott Wallisch awards Josiah Bilbery of Boy Scout Troop 395 the Ad Altare Dei Award during a special Catholic Scouting Awards Mass Sept. 27 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. Bilbery was one of 15 Scouts to receive the award. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATIE PETERSON

Although COVID-19 has continued to present many challenges to group activities because of social distancing requirements and other restrictions, the Catholic Scouting community has found ways to endure and stay true to its mission as the new year began in September.

Meetings and activities have adjusted to video teleconference and socially distanced gatherings of a limited number, and two programs have even made changes for the better. 

Ad Altare Dei

The Ad Altare Dei program was first established by Father James E. Dolan in 1926, in hopes of providing more spiritual development for Scouts seventh-grade and older. The program is organized in sections based on the seven sacraments.

“The purpose of the Ad Altare Dei program is to help Catholic youth of the Roman rite develop a fully Christian way of life in the faith community,” said Paul Camarata, Troop 396 committee member.

This year will not only be the first time the program is being held virtually, but the first time that girls in the Scouts BSA program will be participating. Five girls are signed up for a total of 23 in this year’s program.

AHG Catholic Faith Awards

New programs have launched this year, too, including the American Heritage Girls Catholic Faith Awards. Two local classes for Patriots and Pioneers began in September. Currently, 12 Pioneers and five Patriots are enrolled.

Members of the American Heritage Girls work on learning sign language. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATIE PETERSON

“The AHG National Catholic Committee developed the Catholic Faith Awards Program for girls to learn more about their faith and develop a stronger relationship with Christ in a fun and hands-on manner,” according to the official announcement from the archdiocese. “In each program level, girls will gain a greater understanding of the AHG oath, mission and creed.”

Tonya Gast, AHG KS0138 leadership mentor, is pleased the new program was added.

“My hope is that the books and the programs will teach girls of the next generation and more to come about their Catholic faith and help them grow in relationship with Christ and with other Catholic young women,” she said.

“Another hope is that in offering an archdiocesan-wide class, we will reach Catholic girls in non-Catholic AHG troops and help them complete their Catholic Faith Awards,” she added.

The two levels include the “Deus Et Civitas Mea” (“God and My Community”) for the Pioneer level and the “Femina Integritatis” (“Women of Integrity”) for the Patriot level.

“These programs are each designed for the girls to work in a small group with a mentor guiding them through the book and activities. This includes prayer, study of holy Scripture and the Catechism [of the Catholic Church], community service, learning more about the Catholic faith through the sacraments and more,” Gast said. “The [current] Zoom setup has been great for bringing girls from different geographic areas together.

“COVID-19 has caused a need for some adaptations, but we have waited several years in anticipation of these new books, and we were not going to let COVID stop us from jumping right in.”

For more information about Catholic Scouting in the archdiocese, visit the website at: www.archkck.org/scouting-home.

About the author

Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson attended Xavier Catholic School, Immaculata High School and the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth. She majored in English and minored in music. Katie joined The Leaven as a freelance writer and photographer in May 2017. Her favorite assignment, though she’s enjoyed them all, was interviewing her dad, David, in 2017, after he completed his 100th shadowbox rosary, which he has been making as gifts since 1983. Katie’s full-time position is as reporter for the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper.

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