By Dave Jolivet
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Scouting in America has long been associated with adult role models leading young women and men to strive for being the best person they can be — in mind, body, and spirit.
The list of prominent women and men who were Scouts as youngsters is long and impressive. In the field of space exploration alone, more than 180 U.S. astronauts were former scouts, including 11 of the 12 explorers who walked the face of the moon.
Others include the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor, astronaut Sally Ride, former first lady Laura Bush, and actresses Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore.
Notable men who were Scouts include the iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite, director Stephen Spielberg, basketball legend Michael Jordan, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and actors Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne.
Becoming a Scout doesn’t guarantee any youngster will grow up to be a household name, but in the Diocese of Fall River, the Catholic Committee on Scouting is striving to show boys and girls how to fully engage in their faith and with what they learn from Scouting, make them more effective to society.
The Fall River Catholic Committee on Scouting recently named Michael McCormack as chairman to assist diocesan Scouting chaplain Father David C. Frederici in ensuring that Scouting in the diocese is a youth ministry concentrated on their duty to God and country.
“The youth ministry that is Scouting encompasses every aspect and age category of Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and American Heritage Girls and the mission of all these organizations is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes,” McCormack told The Anchor. “Boy Scouts for example, strives to instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law and today, places an ever-greater emphasis on a premise of Duty to God. The Catholic Committee on Scouting believes that any Scout entering the community, in whatever career they may choose, will need the support of his faith to better guide him through that life.”
McCormack’s connection to scouting goes back nearly 60 years. He joined Troop 19 at St. James Church in New Bedford in 1956. He earned the Ad Altare Dei emblem (“To the altar of God,” a program to help Catholic Youth of the Roman Rite develop a fully Christian way of life in the faith community. The program is organized in chapters based on the seven Sacraments) in 1959, and he became an Eagle Scout in 1960.
He is an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 333, which meets at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown.
McCormack is a member of St. Mary’s Parish in New Bedford, where he serves as a special minister of Holy Communion; as a lector; as a member of the parish council and arts and environment committee; and is a third-degree member of the Father Hogan Council of the Knights of Columbus.
He’s a retired public official and Homeland Security Specialist and resides in New Bedford with his wife Cheryl.
As Fall River Catholic Committee on Scouting chairman, McCormack, along with committee members seek to spread the word about religious emblem awards and attract youth and parents to become involved in Scouting.
“The committee is looking at basically two geographic areas — Bristol County and Cape and the Islands, with two groups of volunteer coordinators and counselors — one for each area,” explained McCormack. “They will assist in informing Scout units and process applications. They may also be called on to coordinate counselors and boards of review, although emblem counselors and boards are generally only for Scouts 13 to 18. Younger Scouts typically work within their family or unit grouping.
“Counselors are important and generally are volunteers much like many you may find teaching Faith Formation, RCIA and CCD classes. All volunteers for the committee would join Boy Scouts as a formality and established diocesan youth policies would be followed. The committee would meet as needed but probably six times a year. A regional conference generally takes place early in October. Training and certification for counselors is available online or at an annual meeting of the committee.”
McCormack told further The Anchor that the committee’s goal is to stage for area Scouts a yearly retreat; a day of prayer; a religious awards ceremony at St. Mary’s Cathedral and on Cape Cod; and to garner increased participation in the Peace Light program.
According to the Peace Light website (peacelight.org), “Each year, a child from upper Austria fetches the Peace Light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The light is carried in two blast proof miners lamps from Tel Aviv, Israel to Vienna, Austria, from where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations from across Europe who take it back, with a message of peace, to their own countries. The Peace Lights are then flown from Bethlehem to New York City. The goal of this website is help the light spread like the branches of a huge tree rooted in New York and spreading across the continent.”
McCormack recently brought a Peace Light to St. John Neumann Parish.
McCormack told The Anchor that there is a need for adult counselors and facilitators to lead area Scouts, as well as individuals to serve on the committee to “expand this important aspect of youth ministry.”
“As Scout leaders we work toward the benefit which can never be underplayed of producing a person who is rooted in doing what is correct and what is right,” said McCormack. “Not someone expecting the world to revolve around them. Scout leaders feel that we must embed in them the belief that above all else their primary function is one of service. Showing them how to fully engage in their faith and with what they learn from Scouting, makes them more effective to society. Counseling Religious Emblem candidates in the very basics of what the Catholic faith holds closest allows them to fold it within themselves. This is our youth ministry. If they know where they stand in their community, their Church and their faith, then they become a powerful presence for what our community needs most.
“The Catholic Committee on Scouting is a youth ministry beyond the typical. You are able to touch the lives of a young person in a manner not often found. Bringing their faith into a place they can touch and embrace it, where someone who believes is willing to share that love.”