Awards emblematic of religious lessons practiced by Patriots and Scouts

HOBART – At the Gary Diocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Religious Emblem Mass, local American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts of America members were reinforced with messages of perseverance and were recognized for their feats of faith from throughout the year.
On March 3 at St. Bridget church, the traditional afternoon gathering of youth, families and organization leaders began with the liturgy presided over by Bishop Robert J. McClory, concelebrated by Father Benjamin Ross, pastor of the Hobart church and an Eagle Scout, and assisted by Deacon Joseph Stodola of St. Thomas More in Munster, a longtime scouting mentor.
Setting a scene of adventure and life choices, Bishop McClory posed a scenario to the faithful in his homily. Before diving deep into key points of salvation history, he spoke about being greeted by the information at the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center in Porter.
“You’ll see a sign that says to stay on the trail. When you approach the trail, somebody could say, ‘Why do I have to do that? I should be able to wander off the trail,’” said Bishop McClory. “If you go to the (visitor center) you learn not just what the rules are – and seven principles – (but also) the fragile interdependency of the ecosystem that is the Dunes.”
Speaking of the natural wonders of the area that achieved full national park standing in 2019, the bishop said certain rules have been established not to curb the enjoyment of visitors, but rather to conserve the resources and keep order. It was a metaphor for the guidance of God in our lives.
“Our ability to enjoy this natural resource means we also respect and protect it – if everybody said, ‘I’m just going to do my own thing and who cares about the trail,’ it would be lost,” the bishop added.
“Today we heard about the gift of the Ten Commandments,” Bishop McClory said, referencing the readings from Exodus. “To go back to the Bible, you might say, is to go back to our own little Dunes educational center to understand the beautiful mind of the lawgiver.”
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop McClory introduced scouting leaders, who became emcees for an awards ceremony that included dozens of girls and boys. From Cub Scouts to teen Patriots (American Heritage Girls participants), youths received medals offered by their organizations for completing studies, exercises, service projects and devotions.
Fifteen-year-old Noah Pastor earned his Pillars of Faith – Duty to God pin. The Valparaiso High School sophomore enjoying fellowship with his fellow scouts at a reception held at the former St. Bridget School gymnasium, took a serious tone reflecting on the impact of recent spiritual studies.
“It definitely made me think differently about my approach of how I feel towards God,” said Pastor, whose shash was festooned with religious and other medals and patches. “It actually helped me pray in a better way to Him. Now I feel I have a stronger connection to God.”
Pastor’s medal display reflects his completion with St. Thomas More troop 542 of the Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, Ad Altare Dei, and Pope Pius XII programs, the latter of which he earned on March 3.
According to the BSA website, the Pillars medal is a developmental award designed like a building, “the religious emblems are the pillars, not the roof, for none of us are ever done growing in our faith. The design also includes the Church, Bible, and cross, other essential elements in faith.”
Pastor said his approach of “full commitment,” has greatly affected him and a scouting religious medal program could be what some teens need. “Honestly, it’s probably one of the best things to do if you’re younger and really losing your way.”
Juan Diego Ayala, 11, of Cub Scout Pack 773 was awarded his Parvuli Dei medal. A member of the unit that encompasses parishes on the Southeast side of Chicago and Whiting, he poured his concentration and efforts into the requirements to earn the pin that is Latin for “Children of God.” It is designed for more advanced Cub Scouts to learn about how they relate to the wider family of believers.

“It can be a really big accomplishment,” said Ayala. “We had to read the Bible, answer questions and do activities … I think that Parvuli Dei is (above) the Light of Christ (which I earned).”
Ayala encourages his siblings, Areli Ayala, 8, and Carlos Ayala, 5, to continue with their scouting experience. He hopes to join the ranks of the older Boy Scouts next year, “I’m a Webelos, so next year if I want, I can go into Boy Scouts. And I do want to because it’s fun,” he said.
Several girls participated in the awards program for the AHG. In its fourth year of diocesan affiliation, Deus et Familia Mea (God and My Family), Deus et Civitas Mea (God and My Community), Femina Integritatis (Woman of Integrity) awards were presented from the sanctuary.
The Carmona family, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton of Valparaiso parishioners, have nine children (one of those, yet unborn and support three of the female siblings’ participation in AHG. Parents Angeles and Juan Carmona said they are grateful for the traditional outlet offering faith and fun activities for girls. Among the award winners at St. Bridget were Eulalia Carmona, 9, earning Deus et Familia Mea level 3, and her sister Eva Carmona, 7, who earned the level 2 version of the medal.
“Well, you basically study for the award you’re going to get and you have fun doing projects and then sometime later you get the award,” said Eulalia Carmona. “I’ve learned to help other people when they’re in need.”
Kept under wraps until all of the youth received their emblems, scout officials announced the winner of the Bronze Pelican award. Honored for her “significant contributions” to diocesan scouting was Emily Hackett. The St. Thomas More director of religious education serves as an AHG troop shepherd.
Opening his church to host another Religious Emblem Mass, Father Ross said the importance of the religious medal program – the study of scripture, review of the precepts of the Church and focus on serving others – is great as ever.
“This is a youth program that helps to teach them their faith, regardless of if they’re getting their religious education as a Catholic school or public school student; this helps supplement that,” explained Father Ross. 


Caption: Bishop Robert J. McClory presents a Deus et Familia Mea (God and My Family) religious emblem to Tenderheart Teresa Dustin, 8, of the American Heritage Girls as her mother Mary Dustin (right) follows her while AHG troop shepherd Emily Hackett (left) prepares awards at the Gary Diocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Religious Emblem Mass on March 3 at St. Bridget church in Hobart. American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts of America members worshipped at Mass presided over by Bishop Robert J. McClory, and later received awards from their organizations pertaining to their study and feats of faith. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)