By David Kilby | Correspondent
During a recent trip to the Pine Barrens, a group of about two dozen sixth- through 12th-graders discovered that sometimes reality is more amazing than fiction.
Boy and Girl Scouts from around the Diocese explored the heroes and superpowers of the Catholic faith and found out many are more fascinating than those found in comic books, during the 62nd annual retreat held March 10-12 at Pine Tree Education and Environmental Center, Tabernacle. The event was sponsored by the diocesan Catholic Committees on Scouting and was open to parish youth group members as well.
The retreat, dubbed Faith-Con, focused on the saints, virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, relating them to “superpowers.”
“It’s another way to bring the faith to the kids,” said Deacon Kevin O’Boyle of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton. “That’s what we’re all about. Scouting is a youth ministry.”
Each hour-long session of the retreat, led by Father Michael Santangelo, pastor of Epiphany Parish, Brick, and diocesan Scouting chaplain, made connections between elements in superhero stories and aspects of the faith. For example, there was one session on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit’s “superpowers” and another on doomsday and secret identities.
In the doomsday session, Father Santangelo talked to the 22 youngsters about heaven, hell and purgatory.
“Every superhero has to someday deal with doomsday,” he said. “If Armageddon happened tomorrow, what would we do about it?” he asked. “After death, there’s the final judgment.”
Throughout the sessions, Father Santangelo made sure the teens were participating every step of the way, teaching the crowd by asking questions.
“How can we get into heaven if we aren’t sinless,” he asked, which led to a discussion about Reconciliation and Baptism, the forgiveness of sins and the washing away of original sin. He also stressed that Baptism not only washes away original sin, but also unites everyone to the family of God.
Of the skits in which the kids participated, one involved acting out one of the seven virtues. After defining the seven virtues, with a little help from Father Santangelo, the teens broke up into groups of two or three and acted out scenes that exemplified temperance, justice, prudence, courage, faith, hope and love while their peers tried to guess which of the seven virtues they were portraying.
Father Santangelo was quick to draw connections between the Catholic faith and the mission of Scouting.
“What we believe in the faith is very in tune with what the Boy Scouts say is important,” he said. “There’s a great complementarity between the two. The Scouting program gives us the framework, and then we have the option to adopt it to our core beliefs. This retreat helps us show the kids how the two are in line with one another.”
He added that the retreat’s theme helps the youngsters ask themselves how they can live their lives as “superheroes of God.”
Joseph Stillwell, 17, a retreat volunteer from Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, explained the effectiveness of the retreat’s approach for Boy Scouts.
“I think it’s very important that young men find good groups that support morality,” he said, “especially through Boy Scouts because Boy Scouts teaches young men how to be a man, to fend for themselves, to live and support the family.”
Volunteer Gavin Schaeffer, 14, of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, agreed. “This retreat helps show them why we need to follow God so we’re not turning away from him,” he said. “The skits help them visualize the different gifts of the Holy Spirit and virtues.”
In the retreat session on secret identities, the youngsters learned about the lives of the saints and how many of the saints were relatable people.
“We’re trying to give them an idea of what the saints were like,” Deacon O’Boyle explained. “The saints are our heroes.”
Jaden Torres of St. Raphael-Holy Angels said he thought God-Con was fun, adding that this was his second year at the retreat. He said he appreciated how every year offers something different: “It’s always something special.”