Catholic Scouting Awards presented – Diocese receives top honors

Girls and boys from throughout the Diocese of Venice participated in Mass on May 5, 2024, at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, wearing the uniforms of their Scout troops.

Designated as “Scouting Sunday,” the Mass, which fell on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, was followed by an award ceremony in the Parish Hall to celebrate and recognize the girls and boys who commit themselves to scouting while remaining true to the Faith. Members of the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, American Heritage Girls (AHG), Fraternus, Troops of St. George, Trail Life USA, and the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society participated in the ceremony.

During a reception following Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane presented dozens of Scouting Religious Awards, with some Scouts receiving multiple honors.

Bishop Dewane told the Scouts that it is his prayer that the awards will continually give them encouragement to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

“Scouting, and similar programs, provide a unique opportunity for young people to grow in virtue. This is a crucial aspect in the formation of solid character and in becoming a good citizen,” Bishop Dewane said. “Catholic Scouting in particular, provides opportunities to grow in friendship with the Lord Jesus and to be rooted ever more deeply in the His Holy, Catholic Church.”

The awards earned from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) Religious Activities Awards included: Rosary Series, Marian Series, Faith Series, Footsteps of American Saints and Modern Saints. Diocesan Scout Awards included: Boy Jesus, Child of God, Kristallnacht, Mother Mary, and Our Lady. The National Committee Boy Scout Awards included: Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, and St. John the Baptist. American Heritage Girls Scouting Awards included: Tenderheart Faith – God and My Family, Explorer Faith – God and My Country, and Pioneer Faith – God and My Community, and Patriot Faith – Women of Integrity (these awards are earned in different segments). Each award requires the Scout to participate in different activities which help increase their Faith. The awards become more difficult to earn as the Scout advances.

New to the 2024 Scouting Faith Series was the National Eucharistic Revival patch, which was created as part of the ongoing U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiative to help grow a greater devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist. The goal of the Eucharistic Revival Scout activities was to instill sacramental and prayer practices regarding the Eucharist in the Scouts. To earn the patch, each Scout was required to attend weekly Mass, participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, take part in a Eucharistic Procession, pray the rosary, and read about the Eucharistic miracles. At the award ceremony, five Boy Scouts were so honored as were all members of American Heritage Girls Troop FL 1203, of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers.

In part due to this accomplishment, Troop FL 1203 was recognized and awarded a Pope Paul VI National Catholic Quality Unit Award. In addition, an adult honor went to Troop FL 1203 leader Kristen Tucker. Tucker was presented the Bronze Pelican Award, which recognizes an adult’s unique and outstanding contributions to the spiritual development of Catholic youth. Bronze symbolizes spiritual strength, while the pelican is an early Christian symbol for self-sacrifice.

During the ceremony, Diocesan Scout Awards Coordinator Bob Paquette presented Bishop Dewane with the Quality Diocese Award, which is given to a Diocese for its commitment to supporting Catholic Scouting. This is the 15th year in a row the Diocese of Venice has received this award. Historically, about 40% of the Dioceses qualify for this important award.

Recognizing the hard work and commitment that the Scouts from throughout the Diocese of Venice make to earn the Catholic Religious Awards, Bishop Dewane congratulated each of the award recipients and all Scouts.

Also participating in the ceremony was National Committee Member Connie Kantor, and James Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization.

Fort Myers rosary garden blessed

The work of young hands and inspiration of an American Heritage Girl helped create a new steppingstone rosary garden at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers.

This new garden, located on Parish property across the street from the main church building, was blessed and dedicated on Jan. 8, 2023, by Father Paul Dechant, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of St. Cecilia.

American Heritage Girl Samantha Mitchell (Troop 1203) proposed creating the garden as a special place to pray the rosary. Once approved by Father Dechant, Samantha, along with fellow American Heritage Girls and friends, installed the steppingstones in the shape of a rosary.

American Heritage Girls is a Christian-based Scouting-like organization which was founded in 1995 and has several troops within the Diocese of Venice.

The garden starts with the base of the cross (20 stones) pointing directly toward the church. Each bead is marked with a stone, with the decades having larger stones and the medal a cluster of four stones. The garden was placed primarily in the shade of pine trees to allow the faithful to enjoy peace and quiet while praying the rosary.

As part of the blessing and dedication of the garden Samantha led the faithful in praying the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary.

The American Heritage Girl program is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country and currently has about 52,000 members.

Girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences, all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement.

Samantha Mitchell has been with the American Heritage Girls for several years and has earned numerous badges including several earned through the Diocese of Venice Scouting Award program. The rosary garden service project is similar in scope and importance to projects done by Boy Scouts who seek to become Eagle Scouts.