Scout plans non-profit to help immigrants

Xander Widener, 15, poses for photos with Father Matthew Gray, Scout chaplain and vicar for vocations, after he received the Four Pillar emblem at the February convocation held at St. Joseph Church in Columbia. (Provided)

COLUMBIA—Xander Widener, a 15-year-old at Cardinal Newman School, recently accomplished something that only 27 other young men have ever accomplished within the Diocese of Charleston. 

A member of Catholic Scouting since the second grade, he was awarded with the prestigious Four Pillar emblem, which can only be accomplished after a Scout earns all the other religious emblems, beginning around age 7. 

At a convocation that took place in February at St. Joseph Church, Father Matthew Gray, Scout Chaplain and Vicar for Vocations, awarded Xander with the significant emblem. 

“Earning the Four Pillar emblem signifies that the Scout has completed the entire program and has gone above and beyond all other Scouts in Catholic Scouting,” Father Gray explained. “Each of the levels of religious emblems has its unique challenges and difficulties and Xander has persevered through them all.”

The Catholic Scouting program is set up much like Boy Scouts of America, but is instead tied to a religious institution and marks the growth of a Scout in knowledge of the Catholic faith. 

Xander began his Scouting journey when he earned his first Pillar of Faith emblem called the Light of Christ. 

Designed for ages 6 to 7, the Light of Christ helps the Scout develop a personal relationship with Jesus. With the parents’ guidance, the Scout will learn to see Jesus as a real person and friend.

The second Pillar of Faith is the Parvuli Dei (Children of God), designed for 8- to 10-year-old Scouts. It teaches the Scout to explore a wide range of activities that reveal the presence of God through contributions people can make to society.

Ad Altare Dei (To the Altar of God) is the third pillar Xander accomplished. Designed for older youth, the purpose is to help develop a fully Christian way of life, with a focus on spiritual growth through the seven sacraments.

The fourth pillar, Pope Pius XII, is designed for ages 15 and up. The Pope Pius XII program deals with different life choices, occupations and ministries in the church to discern what God is calling each person to do. It also includes discussions on current issues facing the church and the world.

To complete the fourth pillar, Xander focused on immigration and gave a presentation on “The Church’s Stance on Immigration.” 

“In the Bible, God promises that our judgment will be based on our treatment of the most vulnerable,” he said. “Before God we cannot excuse inhumane treatment of certain persons by claiming that their lack of legal status deprives them of rights given by the Creator.” 

Xander and his team also presented an idea for a nonprofit called “U.S. for You”, which would help immigrants make the United States their home by providing legal services and financial aid. 

“How can we judge any human’s worth? Everyone has a value,” Xander said.

Xander said he plans to implement his nonprofit idea into a working 501c3 organization when he turns 18.

“He discovered a real and genuine obstacle to legal immigration and found a simple and profound solution that would ease the hardship placed upon families wishing to immigrate into the United States,” Father Gray said.

His mom, Amy Widener, is of course proud of her son.

“Xander is answering the question of not what the world can do for you, but instead, what you can do for the world,” she said.

Xander, who is currently a Life Scout, hopes to earn his Eagle Scout rank at the end of the year.

By Theresa Stratford