Father Michael Santangelo, diocesan Scouting chaplain and pastor of Epiphany Church, Brick, offers a prayer during the Court of Honor.
Father Michael Santangelo, diocesan Scouting chaplain and pastor of Epiphany Church, Brick, offers a prayer during the Court of Honor.
Covering the sash that’s part of Bryce Gestrich’s Scouting uniform are the numerous merit badges he has earned throughout his Scouting career.

And while Gestrich, a member of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, singles out his Citizenship in the Nation badge because it was his first and his Life Saving Badge because it was a “very tough course,” he was especially proud of his new Ad Altare Dei badge because it is reflective of his Catholic faith.

PHOTO GALLERY: Annual Scouting Court of Honor

Gestrich was one of 19 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and adult Scouting leaders to be recognized for their accomplishments during the Diocese of Trenton Catholic Committees on Scouting Annual Court of Honor March 1 in Epiphany Church, Brick. The religious awards program was instituted by the National Catholic Committees on Scouting more than 30 years ago, recognizing the efforts of Scouts ages six and older to incorporate their Catholic faith in their daily lives. Individuals and troop projects focusing on both Church and community allow the youth to earn diocesan-level and national awards.

“If you look at how the Church calls us to live and how Scouting calls us to live, there’s a lot of overlap, a strong complementarity between them. Today is a day to acknowledge those who have been living it,” said Father Michael Santangelo, diocesan Catholic Scouting chaplain and pastor of Epiphany Parish, who presided at the Court of Honor ceremony and presented the awards.

Father Santangelo acknowledged that while the different awards presented were not directly related to particular Scouting ranks, the youth were required to participate in projects that increased their understanding of the Catholic faith.

The award “puts into context how we live [faith] out as Scouts,” he said. “By recognizing what one Scout does, we hope to encourage them to keep it up. It’s also a way [for them] to show others a good way to live out their faith” while also serving as a Scout.

“Many of the Scouting activities lend themselves very well to the proclamation of the Gospel, [and] how our faith and Scouting go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Humbled to have been an “I Live My Faith” badge recipient, Aniela Adamski of St. Isidore the Farmer Parish, New Egypt, who has been involved with Scouting since she was in kindergarten and is now in sixth grade, said the award will serve as a reminder of how she is called to live as a Christian by putting other people first and doing what she can “to help them out more.”

Fellow parishioner Christian Oliviosmiled as he spoke of the many opportunities he has had since joining the Scouts more than five years ago. After sharing that one of his more memorable experiences was creating a 10-slide photo journal that earned him a photography badge, he spoke of the preparation for the Ad Altare Dei badge. He said it was equally meaningful because it “helps to deepen my faith through Scouting and explore the [Catholic] religion.”

To earn an Ad Altare Dei (Latin for “To The Altar of God”) emblem, a Scout must complete a seven-chapter program that focuses on the Sacraments.

One of many important virtues Olivio has learned through Scouting is persistence.

“If you remain persistent, you’ll find there is always an end goal that is bigger and unexpected,” he said, adding that’s an important concept to keep in mind in other areas of life as well, whether in school at work or mastering a sport or other skills.

“Persistence shows you can really build character in whatever setting you are at,” he said. “Persistence helps you to adapt [to changes] and overcome [challenges].

“Even if there are no awards given,” he said, “I would have still become a Scout because it helps you to grow in your spiritual life. The takeaway from Scouting has been great.”

Video interviews conducted by Monitor freelance photographer Rich Hundley contributed to this story.