There's no need to fear!

I hear you! I was in the same boat when I first started. “I don’t know anything about the religious emblems program”. “I am not a strong Catholic”. “I haven’t been to church in a while”. “I don’t have time to take on another commitment”. “What’s so important about this program, my son is already in Scouts?” “My son goes to CCD/PREP at his church, why should he do this?” If any of these comments sound familiar – hang in there with me and keep reading.

But before looking at doubts and concerns, let’s begin this topic with a prayer:

A Scouter’s Prayer for Vocations

Lord, through our baptism you have called us all into -a life of service. As Scouters, we learn that the best leadership is the leadership that serves eagerly and happily! You yourself came to show us how to live a life of serving others rather than seeking to be served by others. May you find among us those willing to become prayerful priest and dedicated deacons, faithful parents and enthusiastic single volunteers. Through our lives may you become better known and loved. Grant that whatever state of life we come to we may be faithful to your command to love and serve.

My Story

As Catholic parents or adults we know our responsibility is to pass on the faith to our children, yet in today’s society, many of us find that a difficult thing to do. Sports and other activities take precedence over church on Sunday, praying together is uncomfortable or no longer convenient, video games overpower the urge to read the bible, and television continuously pounds out a negative immoral message making religion seem like some cultist ritual. Is this the faith of our fathers? Is this the message we want to pass on? My answer is NO!

It took many years for me to “re-embrace” my Catholic faith; in fact, it took the birth of my first child to have that “IN YOUR FACE/SMACKED UP THE SIDE OF MY HEAD” moment. So, I can’t blame you if you are hesitant or less than enthusiastic to get involved with a religious program, or that maybe you are a bit embarrassed that your “Catholic” knowledge just isn’t up to par. But you know, “THAT’S OK!” I certainly am no philosopher of Catholicism, nor am I a walking fact book of Saints, dates or passages – just ask my wife! But I still had the desire to share this faith of mine with my children, and Scouting, along with the religious emblems program, gave me a way that made it both fun and simple. Further still I realized that no one else was stepping up to the plate and I feared the alternatives of doing nothing.

As a Cub Scout parent, I bought the Light of Christ workbook for my son who was then a Wolf Scout. I found it very simple in concept and layout and it was easy to work with him on the very basics of our faith. The most interesting part of working with him was that it also gave me the opportunity to learn and revisit my own faith in an unthreatening environment and at a relaxed pace. I actually became so curious and interested in the Catholic program that I sought out the Catholic Committee on Scouting in my area. I went to one of their meetings and instantly became excited after meeting and seeing all of these “other adults” sharing in the mission for our sons. I was hooked.

I’ll be the first to say that as a “rookie” Catholic parent, I was intimidated by some of the members’ knowledge of the religion. I thought that I would never fit in because I didn’t know nearly anywhere as much as they did. Heck, at times I felt that if it wasn’t for watching “The Robe” or a Charlie Brown’s Christmas, I might not have some of the foundational knowledge that I do! But that didn’t matter to anyone because it isn’t about “knowledge”, it’s about the desire to serve others.

I admit that I didn’t do much that first year of attending meetings, but I was captured enough to bring back the “message” to my Pack and share it with the other Scouts – both Catholic and non-Catholic. I learned about all the different programs available for so many different religions that I didn’t think there was anyone who couldn’t participate in one of them. I ended up having a handful of other Catholic Scouts become interested in the program, and better still – a few of their parents! Next thing I knew, there were a few of us “adults” attending the Catholic Committee on Scouting meeting regularly! The best feeling though, was bringing six Scouts to the cathedral to be awarded their religious emblem by the archbishop. How awesome!

Over time I got more and more involved with the program and committee. I ended up taking their “Scouter Development” training, which really helped me overcome whatever doubts or concerns I had with my faith, and my ability to share it with the Scouts. They say the only way to enjoy something is to immerse yourself in it. Well I did, and I was glad. Since that first year, I have come a long way. I’ve been involved for more than a decade and am more committed to the program now than I ever was. I am facing some big challenges for my current committee and am willing to dedicate myself to its success. But success doesn’t come in working alone.

Referring back to that prayer up at the top of this page – I realized that it takes a lot of people to do the work of our Lord, but the more that share in the load, the easier it is. I also realized that nothing will happen unless YOU make it happen. Sure, I could have been a coach for my son’s sports team – but that wasn’t where my passion lay. I was committed to the Scouting program, and by finding this extra “special” program offered through the Catholic Committee on Scouting, I was happy to have a place where I felt I could make a difference for my child, and all the other Catholic children.

I have been involved with the Cub Scout awards of “Light of Christ” and “Parvuli Dei”, and am now a counselor for the Boy Scout awards of “Ad Altare Dei” and “Pope Pius XXII”. I even train other adults to become religious emblems counselors! Do I still have moments where I’m not sure of an answer or religious fact? YOU BET! But that doesn’t stop me! If I don’t know an answer, I’ll find it out – that’s the easy part.

I keep asking God why he is leading me down this path when there are so many others who are much more qualified than I. His answer is pretty funny – he keeps driving me harder and further instead of easing up. I feel compelled to do more. I’m involved in the formation of a “new” committee now and will hopefully be instrumental in its organization and programming. I continue to learn about our faith by working with such devout and knowledgeable adults, and yes, I continue to learn as I go along working with the Scouts on their own religious emblems. I am not afraid to admit my weakness when it comes to my religious knowledge, but I am happy to show my strength when it come to my devotion and efforts. That is what I hope you take away from this passage. Serve others in any way you can, even if it is just a little bit. Never give up, and never walk away from the opportunity to spread our faith to the next generation of Catholics.

So let’s take a look at some specific issues you might be having:

I don’t know anything about the religious emblems program.
NO PROBLEM! There is plenty of information available from the Catholic Committee on Scouting, at council, and online to get you up to speed in no time. But – the whole concern is for naught. We’re not talking about rocket science here. Everything the Scout needs to do to complete the program is in a workbook for the emblem they will be working on. Cubs work with their parents on the book, while Boy Scouts work with a counselor. You will need to get your pastor to sign off on the book, as well as your unit leader. Depending on where you live, your Catholic Committee on Scouting can direct you in obtaining the medal and also if and where there might be a ceremony for the awarding of it. The medals are generally awarded by the parish at a special service or mass, and the religious emblems knot is awarded at the unit level in either a Pack meeting, Blue & Gold or Red & White dinner, or Court of Honor.

I am not a strong Catholic.
Neither was I! But if you desire to share your faith with your child in a positive and fun environment that reinforces the values of Scouting, then you owe it to him to be involved. Overcome your doubts; and as the Nike commercials state – Just Do It! You might actually find that by participating in this program and/or being involved with your Catholic Committee on Scouting – you WILL become a stronger Catholic. You WILL learn about your faith. You WILL begin to live your faith.

I haven’t been to church in a while.
See the statement above. The more you immerse yourself into something, the more it becomes a part of your life. You will find that by being around other Catholic parents, you will want to do more and want to go to church. Sometimes the toughest journeys begin with the first step. You aren’t a marathon runner, at least not yet.

I don’t have time to take on another commitment.
Neither did I! I was Cubmaster of a pack, staff member on the council training committee, staff member on the district roundtable committee, had a full-time job AND had my own wedding photography business. Yet I found time. You can too. You don’t have to become a project manager for a major corporation – you’re only looking at a few hours a month. Aren’t your child and God worth it?

What’s so important about this program, my son is already in Scouts?
The twelfth point of the Scout Law is “A Scout is Reverent”. The religious emblems program is a wonderful way for a Scout to reinforce his “Duty to God” and living that twelfth point, and also gives him a way to show others he is doing so by wearing the medal and knot that he will be awarded! While this program is NOT a part of the Scouting program, it is important enough to be recognized by the Boy Scouts of America - so much so - that they created a special knot to wear in recognition of this participation and achievement. The knot is worn on the uniform of a Scout and also on the uniform of an adult Scouter who has earned an award as a youth. In other words – a lifetime of recognition!

My son goes to CCD/PREP at his church, why should he do this?
This program is NOT religious training, nor is it a substitute for any religious teaching required for preparing for the sacraments. It is a program designed to reinforce the knowledge that a Scout should have of his faith, and also opens up awareness for older Scouts of vocations they might consider in their future and how their faith will intersect with and affect their lives.



Educate - Make your Scouts and his parents aware of the program. Help them determine which award is appropriate for their faith. Make them aware that the pamphlets can be obtained from the Scout Shop.

Encourage - Encourage your Scouts to earn the award associated with their faith. Not only will they achieve one of the requirements they need for rank, but they will learn more about their faith during the process. Occasionally ask them where they are on their awards and praise them for their efforts.

Support - This can be the toughest role for the Scout leader, but you must remember you're not on your own. You have the support of your unit and district leaders. Don't hesitate to take a question you can't answer to another leader. Remember all leaders are in Scouting for the same reason - the boys!

Celebrate - Encourage the Scouts to support one another by attending the awarding of the religious medal ceremony of each Scout. Ensure that the knot is awarded at the unit meeting in a manner that relays the importance of this award.


Some religious organizations are very familiar with this awards program. Others may never have heard of it. You can support your Scout by helping his parents gather information on the award. Most clergy embrace the awards once they are familiar with the requirements of the individual awards. The important thing to remember here is that the requirements are set by the religious institutions and not BSA. That fact carries a lot of weight with the clergy.

You may have a Scout whose family practices their faith at home and don't have a church home. You may have a Scout whose clergy has decided not to support the program. You can support these Scouts by asking other members of your unit you share the same faith as the Scout to approach their church. Many churches will teach the award to a Scout who is a member of their faith but not of their congregation. If no one else in your unit has a church that can help, ask the leaders you know at Roundtable or ask your unit commissioner. Many churches occasionally host open classes for any Scout who wants to earn the award of that faith.

Encouraging the Scouts to support each other by attending one another's award ceremonies may present certain challenges. Some people are not comfortable with attending the service of another religion. Try to show them that this is an opportunity for the Scouts to learn tolerance and brotherhood. One can be respectful and supportive without accepting the beliefs of another. Attending the award ceremony of a Scout of a different faith is similar to attending a wedding, baptism, or funeral of a person of a different faith. In the end, you may still have families that will not attend the ceremony of another Scout. Let the Scouts know that is an acceptable decision and that we should all respect the views of others and not be judgmental. Ask the Scout receiving the medal and his family to educate the other people who will be attending the service. Have them tell people what to expect. People should know when to stand, kneel, sit, etc...Everyone will be more comfortable if they know.

I hope this helps, even if just a little. Enjoy the journey!
Yours in Christ,
Bill Brodniak

Have a concern that isn't covered here - just e-mail me!