By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
“We, as Scouts, need to live our lives in such a way that others will say there is something different about us,” said Father Michael Santangelo, diocesan Catholic Scouting chaplain. “One of the beauties of scouting is that it gives us confidence and the opportunity to rejoice in the unique people we are.”
Nearly two dozen such unique boys and girls, all members of scouting troops in the Diocese of Trenton, gathered March 4 in Epiphany Church, Brick, for the organization’s annual Court of Honor awards ceremony. Father Santangelo, parish pastor, along with Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese and former scouting chaplain, bestowed a blessed medal or emblem to each deserving Scout that represented months of learning more about their Catholic faith and the tenets of patriotism and service they held dear.
Photo Gallery: Court of Honor Ceremony in Brick
The awards program, instituted by the National Catholic Committee of Scouting more than three decades ago, recognizes the efforts of Scouts ages 6 and older to incorporate their Catholic faith into their daily lives. Individual and troop projects focusing on both Church and community allow the youth to earn diocesan-level and national awards.
Young award members took a leadership role in the ceremony as they led the congregation in the traditional Boy and Girl Scout oaths.
Christopher Enge of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, stepped forward to lead the assembly in the Boy Scout oath, in which troop members promise they will keep themselves “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight,” while Ashlyn Incantalupo of St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, led the Girl Scout medal winners in their oath that promised they would “serve God and my country [and] help people at all times.”
Another Scout from the Lincroft faith community, Madelyn Ribon, read an excerpt from St. Paul’s first Letter to the Thessalonians.
Father Santangelo proclaimed the Gospel of St. John in which Jesus exhorts Peter to tend his sheep (John 21:15-19). In his homily, he spoke of how Lent is the perfect time for self-reflection.
“We can see what we need to improve upon,” Father Santangelo said, “and it is also a time to acknowledge what we are doing right so we can make the commitment to continue doing so. [As Scouts], we live lives of example. We say to the world around us that we hold a certain set of ideals, of principles, that we see as important but the world might not.”
The chaplain, himself an Eagle Scout, continued, “Our gifts are meant to be used so that others can share in the love of God. You must explore and discover what your gifts are and use them in Christ’s service.”
Father Santangelo exhorted the young Scouts to live the principles of scouting in their daily lives and realize the medal ceremony was not an end, but a beginning of their next level of faith.
“Faith and scouting go hand on hand,” he concluded. “What it takes to be a good Scout is what it takes to be a good follower of Christ. The blessings we receive from God help us make a difference in our communities and our world.”
Father Santangelo extended a message and congratulations to the youth on behalf of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who had urged them to “keep doing what you are doing to excel in your faith.”
After the ceremony, youth admired one another’s medals and emblems. Incantalupo and Ribon said teamwork was important in scouting, explaining that not only did the two participate in the ceremony, they also worked together to earn the “I Live My Faith” medal. Both wore green vests sporting numerous badges detailing their prowess in other fields.
Father-and-son bonds of faith and service were evident in Hazlet’s Troop 137. James S. Borg and John Gibney share leadership roles in the troop as well as membership in St. Ann Parish, Keansburg, where Gibney teaches religious education.
The men’s sons and namesakes were awarded the “Ad Altare Dei” (To the Altar of God) emblem, and Gibney was granted the “Christ the King” emblem for his leadership role.
The elder Borg noted, “The boys put in six to eight months of work” toward earning the emblem.
His son, James R. Borg, a high school junior, detailed the reasons for the labor of love. “I feel closer to my faith. I learn more about it. [Catholic scouting] teaches me responsibility, and I get a strong sense of accomplishment when I complete it.”