Scouts learn and pray together at first St. Mary camporee

PARKSVILLE — Boy and Girl Scouts of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken took to the woods for the first St. Mary’s Scouting Camporee  from May 15-18.
The theme was “Bridging God, Country, Community and Self,” and the goal was to bring Scouts of different ages together for fun and fellowship. It was held at St. Mary’s Campground, which the parish leases from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The site is on the shores of Lake Thurmond in McCormick County, about 45 minutes outside Aiken.
The event drew around 90 Scouts and 60 adults. Troops from St. John United Methodist Church in Aiken were invited as special guests.
St. Mary sponsors Scout troops of all levels for girls and boys, including the Venture program for youth 14-20. Organizers said the weekend was a rare chance for young people to meet each other and learn about the wide range of activities available in Catholic Scouting.
“This is a great thing — the more we can get the community of Scouting together, the better,” said Jim Paczynski, who leads the Cub Scout and Venture programs for the parish. “One of the most underutilized youth ministries is Catholic Scouting. This kind of thing invigorates young people and keeps them involved with the church and with Scouting.”
Venturers helped guide the younger children and ran many of the weekend events, including the activity stations. They also cooked the evening meal May 15.
“They’re all blending together, different ages learning from each other, and they’re also getting to know other kids who are into the same activities they are,” said Regina Amidon, one of the organizers. “That’s important because as kids get older, they sometimes start thinking Scouting isn’t cool anymore.”
Paczynski said the event could serve as a role model for other parishes with large programs. A camporee gets both kids and adults excited about Scouting and the opportunities for developing spiritually and learning important life skills.
“If you talk to CEOs and human resources people, they will tell you they like to see involvement in Scouting on resumes,” he said. “A person comes through Scouting, and you know they’ve had formation in morality and ethics. They’ve honed and matured their ethics, morals and faith.”
On May 16, campers spent the day visiting activity stations where they learned skills such as knot tying, fire building, first aid, and orienteering, which involves using a map and compass to navigate from point to point.
At the saint station, children delved into the life of St. John Neumann and made their own rosaries. Those who participated received a special “Footsteps of American Saints” patch, which is offered by the U.S. Committee on Catholic Scouting.
Youth also enjoyed time for free play and swimming in the nearby lake, but that was cut short by rain. 
That evening, Father Jeffrey Kirby celebrated an outdoor Mass. He is the parochial vicar at St. Mary and an Eagle Scout.
Father Kirby noted that they received special permission to hold the Mass outdoors.