Earning badges sharpens faith

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE—Catholic Scouts take a journey in faith to earn religious badges.

At a recent retreat at Camp Barstow, 40 Scouts had the opportunity to complete their requirements for the Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII badges.

Ad Altare Dei is for Boy Scouts 13-14 years old. The goal is to develop a fully Christian way of life in the faith community through a program based on the seven Sacraments.  It takes about six to eight months to fulfill the conditions for this emblem.

Pope Pius XII is for Boy Scouts 15 or older, and for male and female Venture Crew members ages 14-20. This program teaches about different vocations and ministries in the church, and how each one is a call from God. Youth are required to study and discuss issues facing the church and society.

Participants at the weekend event also focused on vocations and faith formation.

Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar for vocations, said this was the first retreat of its kind in the diocese and called the weekend a “huge success.”

Candidates for the Pius XII emblem faced a special challenge. They met with a board of review, which included Father Kirby and other adult Scouting volunteers, and answered questions related to church teaching on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and the sanctity of marriage. 

“We were playing devil’s advocate with them and challenging them, and we were very impressed with how convincing they were and how effective they were in explaining the faith and church teachings,” Father Kirby said.

Deacon S. Matthew Gray, who is scheduled to be ordained July 1, discussed vocations and the discernment process with the Scouts, who attended Mass and prayed together.

Brandon Sleasman, 17, said he has worked about five months to complete the requirements for the Pope Pius badge. He attends Our Lady of the Valley Church in Gloverville and is a member of Venture Crew 115, based at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken.

“Working for the emblem has been a lot more than I expected it to be,” he said. “My group had a lot of deep discussions. We talked about our faith, our vocations in life, how we view friends and how God calls us to do different things in our lives. It truly opened my eyes to things I didn’t know before.”

The religious emblems are given by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting and will be awarded at a convocation at St. Joseph Church in Columbia on Feb. 6.