By Amy White
The Texas Catholic
On Feb. 4 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Dallas, Scouts from Troop 719 stood before the congregation during a Scout Sunday Mass as they received recognition for their accomplishments. But Scouts were not just at the front of the church; they were also altar servers, ushers, and even after-Mass donut servers. They were everywhere in places of service, which is fitting for a troop that is so service- and church-oriented.
Troop 719 is a Catholic Scout troop of approximately 40-50 5th grade to 18-year-old boys. The troop is associated with St. Patrick Catholic Church in Lake Highlands and takes its designation as a Catholic troop seriously.
“The truth runs through everything that we do,” said Paul Gerst, Scoutmaster of the troop and parishioner of St. Patrick. “So, we open troop meetings with prayer. We are really big in service; the boys do a lot of service through the year for the parish and the surrounding community.”
The troop has always been Catholic, but since Gerst joined as Scoutmaster a year and a half ago, the Scouts have been diving even deeper into their Catholic identity with new faith-oriented programs.
“We’ve done a variety of thing to try to get deeper into our faith,” Gerst said, “and the boys have embraced it.”
One of the new initiatives is the Eucharistic Revival Activity Program. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting offers the program in support of the National Eucharistic Revival. To earn the badge, Scouts engage in activities that foster a greater love for the Eucharist.
“There are all these activities you can do,” Gerst said. “The first one is consistent presence at Mass. That’s what we’ve accomplished…. After that is stuff like reconciliation and eucharistic adoration.”
On Feb. 4, 16 Scouts were honored at St. Patrick for their participation in the Eucharistic Revival Activity Program.
Nine Scouts were also honored for their participation in the Ad Altare Dei emblem program. Ad Altare Dei, which means “to the altar of God,” consists of service projects and a series of classes on the seven sacraments. The classes, which spanned six months, were led by Gerst. At the end of the course, Scouts approached a Board of Review and defended what they had learned about their faith.
“It’s kind of a deep dive into the sacraments, combined with service,” Gerst explained, adding, “These Scouts are really serious about their faith and are trying to learn about and practice it.”
These two groups of Scouts were honored at the Scout Sunday Mass on Feb. 4. Scouts who completed their eucharistic revival program previously received a patch for their uniforms on Jan. 29 at the Troop Court of Honor. Those who completed the Ad Altare Dei program received an emblem
on Jan. 28 during a diocese-wide event at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas.
Henry Dybala, one of the scouts honored on Scout Sunday, said of his experience with these programs, “I have grown closer to God, and I learned more about the sacraments. I feel very proud to have… earned both the National Eucharistic Revival and Ad Altare Dei awards.”
A third group was also honored: troop members who reached the rank of Eagle Scout. With four Eagle Scouts this year, Troop 719 has a remarkably high rate of Eagles, Gerst said.
“Nationally, only 6% of Scouts become Eagle,” he explained. “We consistently have a lot of Eagles.”
The four Eagles honored have all given back to their St. Patrick community. Three of these Scouts completed projects for the church, and the forth completed a project for St. Patrick Catholic School.
Gerst’s son, Andrew, was one of the Eagle Scouts honored on Feb. 4. For his Eagle project, he led the construction of a bookshelf for the music ministry at the church.
He said of his experience, “My journey to becoming an Eagle Scout was a transformative adventure, filled with challenges, service, and personal growth, ultimately shaping me into a leader dedicated to making a positive difference in my community.” The younger Gerst added that he was glad that his project “fostered a sense of unity within the community by providing a practical solution to support their endeavors.”
Andrew Kelton, who also attained Eagle rank, chose to build a table for the church as his Eagle Scout project. Clergy and eucharistic ministers at St. Patrick now utilize the table during celebrations of Mass.
“When it came time for me to decide on my Eagle Scout project, I knew I wanted to give back to my church,” Kelton said, adding that he is grateful that both his church and troop contributed to his growth in character and faith.
Another Eagle Scout honored at the Scout Sunday Mass, Daniel Lucido, said, “Becoming an Eagle Scout took time and commitment, but I’m glad to have done it while being a part of Troop 719. Not only was I surrounded by neighbors and friends, but I also got to enjoy the expression of my faith.”
During the Scout Sunday Mass, which is a yearly tradition during the first Sunday of February, the St. Patrick community enthusiastically applauded these accomplished members of Troop 719, recognizing the good work they have done for the community.
“It’s always good for the parish to know how much the boys are doing for the parish and the community and all the stuff they’re doing for their faith,” Gerst said. “We want to show that we have young men who are serious about their faith and serious about the community here at St. Patrick’s.”