Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Scouts provide wholesome alternative for youth activity
by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register
(From the Feb. 28, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Youth gangs and Boy Scouts — not often do we mention them in the same breath. But maybe we should. If the boys who belong to youth gangs belonged to Scout troops instead, a murder in Spokane about a month ago might have not have occurred. As it is, a 14-year-old boy as been charged with the murder of a drug dealer whom the boy and his companions attacked while trying to steal drugs.
Residents in the neighborhood where this tragedy took place asked the police to call a meeting at which they could learn to prevent crimes of this sort. In a news story announcing the meeting, a police spokesman said there are 40 gangs in Spokane with a combined membership of 500-750 members.
This led me to phone the Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America to ask for comparative numbers of Scouts in the Spokane area. I was told there are 196 units which include Boy Scout Troops. Cub Scout Packs and Venture Crews with a membership of 4,909 youths. I breathed a sigh of relief that the Scout figures heavily outnumber the gang figures.
A Scout troop is usually made up of two or more patrols, and the patrol is important indeed. It has been called a natural gang, but of course it is a good gang. Often members of a patrol are boys who might be friends, even if they were not fellow Scouts. Scouting makes their friendship stronger, enables them to be more responsible, encourages them to enjoy the adventure, skill, and achievements of Scouting.
I was surprised and impressed at a National Scout Jamboree I attended to see that a large contest on the program was not competition among the large troops but among the smaller units, namely the patrols. Of course, patrol members are also troop members and do much to make the troop go well.
It is often said that a boy joins a gang because he feels alone. Maybe his parents and family give him little support or guidance, and the gang seems to be the best substitute he can find for a family of his own. I remember a time many decades ago when I saw a parish Scout troop lined up at a troop meeting to hear what their Scoutmaster was telling them. I knew every boy there, because I was their troop chaplain. As I watched it struck me that over half of the boys did not have a father. I mean their father was either deceased or separated from the family. I could also see that the excellent person who was their Scoutmaster served as a substitute father for those boys.
At the time I served on the local Scout Council committee for selecting adult leaders to receive the Silver Beaver award, given from year to year to adult leaders who ‘were outstanding in their service to boyhood. I told my fellow committee members about this man who was parent to these fatherless boys, besides being a good father to his own large family. The committee agreed he should receive the Silver Beaver that year.
Much more to be done
Thank God the Scout Movement is present and at work among us. But hunger for drugs and crimes committed to steal them are one indication of how much more must be done.
For information on the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and its activities, contact:
• Father Terence Tully, diocesan Scout chaplain, 221 E. Rockwood Blvd., Apt. 308, Spokane, WA 99207-1200; phone (509) 458-7674; or
• Joe Schmitz, chairperson, Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 400 S. Jefferson, Suite 112, Spokane, WA 99204; (509) 747-7499.
For the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s web site, click here!
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