By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
“Scouting serves as a reflection of what we profess as followers of Christ,” Father Michael Santangelo, diocesan Catholic Scouting chaplain, told the 17 uniformed and badge-emblazoned young men seated before him, “Live what it is we believe.”
The Scouts, members of faith-focused troops in the Diocese of Trenton, gathered March 3 in Epiphany Church, Brick, for the organization’s annual Court of Honor awards ceremony. Father Santangelo, parish pastor, along with Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese and former Scouting chaplain, awarded emblems that symbolized the boys’ desire to learn more about their Catholic faith and the tenets of patriotism and service.
The awards program, instituted by the National Catholic Committee of Scouting more than three decades ago, recognizes the efforts of Scouts ages six and older to incorporate their Catholic faith into their daily lives. Individual and troop projects focusing on both Church and community allow the youth to earn diocesan-level and national awards.
The Scouts led the assembly in the Boy Scout oath, in which troop members promise they will keep themselves “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” Father Santangelo, himself an Eagle Scout, proclaimed the Gospel of St. John in which Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him (John 21:15-19).
In his homily, the priest challenged the youth to put their love for Christ into action. Congratulating the boys for having completed the steps necessary to earn the emblems, Father Santangelo said, “If we all reflect Christ to the world around us, we would live a life of holiness. Just because you receive these items, don’t stop living the life of a good Scout and a good follower of Christ.”
He continued, “Be an example of what it means to truly be a Scout. Help the world recognize Scouting and faith go hand in hand, and that they are truly the answer to all the world’s problems.”
Following the ceremony, youth admired one another’s emblems and shared their reasons for pursuing the Scouts.
At the ceremony to receive the “Ad Altare Dei” (To the Altar of God) Emblem, Jack Bopp of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, said he learned more about what it is like “to be a priest behind the altar when our priest visited [the troop].”
Louie Moriggia of Holy Eucharist Parish, Tabernacle, earned the Pope Pius XII Emblem, the fourth of the series of awards for Boy Scouts. “I’ve gotten closer to God when our troop made get well cards for the people in nursing homes,” he said.
Scouting district executive Janet Boris added, “I am a religious education teacher and have been involved in Scouting since 2005 to pass on the faith. These two things tie together. They make sense of how you live your life.”
Sarah and Chris Dalby of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, attended the ceremony with their three young daughters to witness their son, Christopher, receive his emblem. Sarah Dalby noted that Scouting had helped her son develop “leadership qualities, respect for the community and himself,” while Chris Dalby said the young man “had learned religion and how to be a good citizen.”