Catholic Committee on Scouting receives Quality Diocese Award

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting recently earned the Quality Diocese Award, a designation from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which is given each year to recognize dioceses that promote and achieve a quality Catholic Scouting program.

According to the NCCS website, the distinction is “an opportunity for the NCCS to salute those dioceses who truly deliver exceptional programs to youth members at all levels of Boy Scouts of America programs. Quality programs for youth are what the NCCS continually seeks, and it is committed to supporting this goal. It is our hope that each diocese will establish annual goals to accomplish key areas of quality program delivery. Then, when a diocese earns this award, it makes a statement that they have provided their youth members with the highest quality program experience possible.”

The Quality Diocese Award is not only an award program, but also an effective assessment tool for diocesan chairmen and chaplains to evaluate how effectively their committee has delivered programs that support Catholic Scouting as Youth Ministry, and to identify areas that require improvement. 

“It’s really nothing that I did,” said Michael McCormack, chairman of the Fall River Catholic Committee on Scouting. “It’s what all the Scouts — the boys and girls — have done this past year. They are going out there and they’re working to further their faith. It’s really catching on and I’m excited that Scouting is giving them the opportunity to grow in their faith.”

This marks the second consecutive year that the diocesan Scouting program has earned this distinction and the Fall River Catholic Committee on Scouting was one of just five diocesan groups within the Narragansett district to achieve this honor.

“There are 11 dioceses in the region and five of those dioceses, including ours, have completed the objectives required to receive the award,” McCormack recently told The Anchor. “There are 14 objectives given each year and we have to achieve nine of the 14 to earn the designation.”

Some of these objectives include:

— Promoting and working to increase the number of religious emblems and awards presented to youth and adults;

— Providing a diocesan year-end summary of activities;

— Keeping each of the Catholic-sponsored units in the diocese informed of events during the year;

— Conducting a religious event, such as a retreat day, day of recollection, or history-themed program;

— Promoting formation of new units and retention of existing units;

— Hosting a diocesan Scout Mass with the bishop and members of the clergy;

— Distributing at least twice a year a diocesan Catholic Scouting print or electronic newsletter;

— Attending a Catholic regional training event or meeting, or attending the NCCS annual meeting; and

— Offering an adult leadership training program or a National Catholic Leadership Development program.

McCormack was particularly pleased to report they were currently in the process of grooming a counselor-in-training whom he described as “a real go-getter” and someone he has earmarked to become the committee’s new emblems coordinator.

“I always felt that in a leadership position, the first thing you need to do is to identify your replacement and then train them up,” McCormack said. “(This person is from) a good Catholic family. I’ve found that people who are really interested in Scouting and bringing their children up in the faith know how important it is to evangelize and do all the things that are needed to promote it.”

With an estimated 61 units — or troops — of collective Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts within the Fall River Diocese, McCormack admitted that Scouting has been “waning over the years,” but he’s always looking for ways to increase membership and add more units. At one time, he said, it wasn’t uncommon to find at least one or all three troops active at each and every parish.

“That’s a problem that the Boy Scouts have been trying to identify,” McCormack said. “That’s why the concept now is that if you didn’t get them (interested) as Cub Scouts, when they get to be teen-agers, they find other interests. It’s easier to keep them if they’ve been in Cub Scouts. It’s a learned thing.”

McCormack credited the roughly 40 people who currently comprise the Catholic Committee on Scouting in assisting him and diocesan Scouting chaplain Father David Frederici in meeting their goals.

“Before 2016 the committee was basically — I use the word ‘defunct,’” he said. “One of the first things I asked Father Frederici was if we could get the committee reformed.”

That regrouping and revitalization led to what McCormack called “an excellent year last year” for Scouting in the diocese, so it’s no wonder they once again earned the NCCS’ attention. They also found an important ally in Father Ted Brown, director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, who himself is an Eagle Scout.

“We actually got him to sign up for Scouting again,” McCormack said. “So Father Ted is now an adult volunteer with the Scouting program.”

That new connection culminated with the Scouts’ bringing the Peace Light from Bethlehem to La Salette during its annual Festival of Lights this past Christmas, and McCormack said they are already planning some important events for this year at the Attleboro shrine, including a camp-out for the older Scouts, ages 15 and up.

“It will probably be in the fall,” he said. “During the summer you go to summer camp, but the scouting year basically starts on the first of September, so maybe in October or November and we’ll go from there. I’m looking forward to it. I know Father Brown needed to come down from the Christmas season. 

“They’ve agreed basically in kind to (host) a couple of Scouting camp-outs at La Salette, and the (La Salette) Brothers would help the boys get their religious emblem badge. There’s a great deal of work required and it’s a difficult badge to get — it’s called the Pope Pius XII Award.”

McCormack said another thing they have been considering is a day of service at La Salette Shrine — perhaps having the Scouts assist in cleaning up the grounds and/or setting up things like the outdoor Nativity scene in preparation for the Christmas season in November.

“Those are all things that would make for a good day of service for the Scouts,” he said. “And I know I talk a lot about the Boy Scouts, but it’s the Girl Scouts, too. When we did the Peace Light, about 25 percent of the Scouts who showed up were Girl Scouts.”

The 2017 Quality Diocese Award from the NCCS came with a certificate suitable for framing along with a couple of well-deserved patches touting the achievement, because “Boy Scouts are big into patches,” McCormack said.

“Our intent is that the certificate and the patches can be presented to (Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.) at some point,” he said. “So I’m hoping that we can get to do that.”

If the past two years have been any indication, the future for Scouting in the Fall River Diocese remains bright.

“I’m excited about the future,” McCormack said. “It’s moving along with more and more people getting involved. It’s really coming from the parents more than anything else, since the adult leaders already have enough to do. But we’ll just keep plugging away.”

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