By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — During his homily, Father Thom Hennen asked those attending the annual scouting Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Jan. 28 what words they associated with authority.
Responses included school, parents, power, boss, police, leader, government and leadership. What about positive words associated with authority, asked Father Hennen, the cathedral’s pastor. Leadership was one suggestion. He noted that authority tends to have a negative connotation. “But this is not the kind of authority Jesus was talking about.” Jesus does not want people to “put on a show” but to be true to who they are. “Jesus lifts people up in the face of God.”
Father Hennen admitted he dropped out of scouting after completing Webelos level in the Cub Scout program. Recently, he returned from camping in northern Minnesota with his brother. The priest said the skills he learned in scouting came in handy while camping. He could light a fire to keep warm. He recognized some of the animal tracks. “It was good to be out in nature.” Without a working cell phone, he was able to focus on life without many distractions. “I was able to appreciate God’s presence.”
Scouting is about much more than wearing a uniform, he told the gathering of Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls. “Let us pray today that we might change the image of authority as Jesus has shown us in the Gospels.”
After Mass, Father Hennen blessed the scouts’ various emblems: Light of Christ religious emblems for Cub Scouts (grades 1-2); Paruvli Dei (Children of God) emblems for Cub Scouts through grade 5 who have made their first Communion; and Ad Altare Dei (to the Altar of God) emblem for Catholic scouts ages 12-17 beyond 6th grade. Other Catholic awards include the Pope Pius XII emblem for Scouts BSA ages 14-18 and Venture Crew ages 14-21; Bronze Pelican for adult leaders and supporters; and the St. George Emblem for an adult.
Father Hennen presented patches for the American Heritage Girls Catholic Faith Awards that build on the themes of oath, mission and creed. The Deus et Familia Mea (God and My Family) is for Tenderhearts ages 6-9; Deus et Patria Mea (God and My Country) for Explorers ages 9-12; Deus et Civita Mea (God and my Community) for Pioneers ages 12-14. The organization also offers a Femina Integritatis (Women of Integrity) for Patriots ages 14-18.
Keary Onken, charter representative for American Heritage Girls, and Kristina Staab, troop coordinator for the Iowa City-area American Heritage Girls, attended the Mass. Onken said the religious awards for American Heritage Girls debuted in 2020, so they are relatively new. The troop has about 15 girls enrolled in the Iowa City area. The religious awards are segment patches that build upon each other and when completed result in a pin award.
“We integrate (the religious awards program) into each of our meetings with our units,” Staab said. “Each girl in our American Heritage Girls troop earned her Catholic Faith Award.” Two kindergartners earned a Eucharistic Revival patch.
Brian Girskis helped coordinate the annual scouting Mass. He is the Kittan District religious emblems coordinator for the Illowa Boy Scouts of America Council. He also is assistant scoutmaster with Troop 199, Troop 1199 and assistant cubmaster with Pack 199, all associated with Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf.
He said the diocesan scouting Mass recognizes the importance of scouting as youth ministry. He encourages scouts and their families to look into the various offerings. Next year’s scouting Mass is Jan. 26 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.