Parents weigh scouting options

Since the Boy Scouts of America’s policy change to prohibit denial of same-sex attracted youth members, some parents are trading in their boys’ badges for alternatives.

Some are seeking scout-like organizations with a Christian focus in the Denver and Colorado Springs dioceses after the national BSA’s vote in May to permit same-sex attracted membership. A ban on same-sex attracted leaders was maintained.

After the BSA policy change, the Denver Archdiocese announced its continued support of parish-chartered scouting organizations with the caveat of a steadfast obedience to Church teaching on sexuality.

In its May press release, the archdiocese stated no youth should be denied membership to a troop based on sexual orientation or preference.

“The Church agrees that no group should reduce a person to their sexual orientation or proclivity,” it stated. “However, the moral formation of youth must include a firm commitment to respecting and promoting an authentic vision of sexuality rooted in the Gospel itself.”

One alternative that arose is the Troops of St. George, founded by Canterbury Tales blogger and author Taylor Marshall of Texas. Some 2,500 people have showed interest in starting a troop with the Catholic organization, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel Latin Rite Parish in Littleton.

“This is an opportunity to continue this 100-year-old tradition of scouting and to infuse it with a Catholic ethos,” Marshall told the Denver Catholic Register.

The organization was renamed Troops of St. George after the patron saint of scouts often depicted in military garb holding a lance.

Marshall said he founded the exclusively-Catholic troop to continue the tradition of an outdoor-based program focused on character building and the sacraments.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s troop captain, Nicholas Trandem, said the prospect of an international, integrally Catholic scouting movement appealed to him.

“Without being a Sunday school or catechesis program, boys are taught how to live the holy faith in all aspects of their lives through a program of outdoor activity … that is totally infused with Catholicism,” he wrote.

The troop held its first meetings in August after Marshall made a presentation in June.

The 15-member troop participated in a knot-tying competition and dedication ceremony before the Eucharist during its first meeting. The troop has two patrols, each with its own colors, motto, patron saint and dedication prayer, he wrote.

BSA representatives maintain that its scouting program allows churches to charter according to the tenets of its faith. Boy Scouts may be used as a vehicle by which Catholic parishes or organizations can engage and catechize youths, said Joseph Farrell, director of field service for the Denver Area Council.

“This is a program the Catholic Church can use,” Farrell said about the Boy Scouts. “It’s not about becoming the best camper that you can be. It’s about community service. It’s about growing and developing people and their character, their values. What better way than (through) the people who are closest to the youth, and that’s in their church.”

Farrell, who is a parishioner at Light of the World Church in Littleton, said charters allow Catholic scouts to participate in religious emblems and seasonal retreats. The Denver Archdiocese’s Boy Scout activities include catechesis, field trips to places like Mother Cabrini Shrine, Scripture studies, studying the rosary and volunteering. The Catholic Committee on Scouting also holds an annual recognition Mass for troops when religious emblems and patches are awarded.

In the Denver area, there are 58 chartered-units (which includes packs, troops and crews) with 1,423 youths and 592 adult members run by a Catholic church, school or the Knights of Columbus.

Farrell said BSA’s decision maintained that there is no room for sexual behavior in scouting. Its decision to allow same-sex attracted youths is not inconsistent with Church teaching.

“I think the Church and Jesus would say let the youths come and let’s help them,” Farrell said. “We should not turn them away. What better ministry can we do in the Church than the Boy Scouts to help these young people through their discernment?”

Parents like Ian Rutherford of Immaculate Conception Parish in Colorado Springs said his family has a proud tradition of scouting. He was a Boy Scout and has two boys in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

“I think that scouting is good for boys. I think boys need to get out with their dads and do stuff,” he said.

He is considering alternatives and is working to form a new troop at his parish.

In addition to the Troops of St. George, other alternatives have emerged including the Christian scout organization Trail Life USA, based in Florida. It grew out of the On My Honor initiative and will launch in January. It held its inaugural convention Sept. 6 in Nashville.

The national organization, whose members are called “trailmen,” will accept those of all faith traditions but leaders must sign an agreement to follow its Christian tenets.

Other organizations already in existence include the international fraternity Columbian Squires sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Fraternus mentorship program and the national Conquest club. The alternative for young girls is the American Heritage Girls.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.