Scouting September 2000

Venturing for God

By Robert Peterson

A crew of dedicated Venturers on New York City's Staten Island has a mission to enhance the faith of Roman Catholic Scouts.

Venturing—the BSA program for young adults age 14 to 21—takes many forms. When a crew's enthusiasm is for high adventure activities, the program can be as broad as all outdoors. But for some, it can also focus like a laser on one aspect of young people's lives.

Take, for instance, Venturing Crew 12, chartered to Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church on New York City's Staten Island. Its membership includes 14 young men and women.

Most of the crew's 12 male Venturers are also active in Boy Scouting, reveling in the outdoor life of their troops. As Venturers, though, their sights are set on inner life as they share their faith as devoted Catholics with other Catholic Boy Scouts.

Venturing Crew 12 began in 1995 as an Explorer post specializing in Catholic youth evangelization. When Exploring became part of the BSA's Learning for Life program in 1998, the post was reborn as Crew 12 under the continuing leadership of Advisor George E. Vinet Jr. and his wife, Ann Marie Summer-Vinet, who serves as crew chair.

Venturing Crew 12 wants to "be the service arm of the Staten Island Catholic Committee on Scouting," says George Vinet. In pursuit of that goal, the Venturers offer instruction to Boy Scouts who are working on the requirements for the Roman Catholic religious emblems, Ad Altare Dei (Unto the Altar of God) and Pope Pius XII.

The crew meets once or twice a month, depending on holiday schedules. At one monthly meeting, the Venturers discuss ethical controversies outlined in Venturing literature. Said Ann Marie Summer-Vinet: "We use issues like, what do you do if you have the opportunity to cheat on your income tax? The kids take opposite sides of the issue and then reverse roles and take the other side.

"We also deal with personal issues the kids have," she continued. "One of them was conflict with parents over curfews."

Planning a retreat

From November to February, the second semimonthly crew meeting is for counseling younger Boy Scouts on religious emblems requirements. After February, the crew's attention turns to planning the early autumn retreat for Catholic Scouts.

The retreat is much like a camporee, with plenty of outdoor fun and camping chores. But its main purpose is "to show the Boy Scouts that they have a stake and a claim in Christ's living church," George Vinet said.

The Venturers conduct carefully planned presentations designed to produce lots of give-and-take between Venturers and Boy Scouts on spiritual issues. The Scouts dig deep into their hearts and memories to answer such questions as "What do you do to imitate Christ?"

The crew's Advisors are expert teachers. Ann Marie teaches religion at St. Joseph by the Sea Catholic High School, and George is dean of students at Curtis High, a public school on Staten Island. Ann Marie believes their lay status is a plus for communicating with youths.

Doing 'pure ministry'

The Crew 12 chairman also believes that Venturers are even more credible when speaking to other youths. "When a kid gives the message to a kid, he or she is doing pure ministry," Ann Marie said. "The message is coming from someone who's even closer to them, who thinks the way they think, who struggles and questions the way they struggle and question."

Crew president Kevin Malick agrees. Kevin, a 20-year-old seminarian who is looking toward ordination as a priest in about six years, said: "I think it's true that the Venturers relate better to [youth of Boy Scout age] than the adults could. They talk in their language and come from their world."

Kevin had been planning to become a priest even before he helped to start the youth ministry Explorer post in 1995. But, he said, the crew has helped him immensely because through it he overcame a fear of public speaking—a potentially crippling handicap for an aspiring clergyman.

"I had to make a presentation at the first retreat," he recalled, "and I was terrified. I was shaking through the whole thing, and I couldn't take my hands off the podium. But it was a good experience for me because it broke the ice in getting me through my fear of public speaking."

Speaking of ice, there was plenty of it at that first retreat. It was held in February at Alpine Scout Camp in New Jersey, with temperatures in single digits. Outside the unheated cabin, snow lay 10 inches deep.

"We kept the fire going all weekend, and everybody survived," said Ann Marie Summer-Vinet, laughing.

Toward religious vocations

The Venturing crew's 14 members come from parishes all across Staten Island. About a third of the young men are considering religious vocations, according to George Vinet.

The members' efforts received special recognition last March when Venturing Crew 12 was one of a handful of crews and posts to receive the 1999 National Gold Medallion Award of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Eugene Jaconetti, the chartered organization representative for Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, said, "We're basically inviting people from the whole island to come and join in." Jaconetti, who is also chairman of Staten Island's Catholic Committee on Scouting, declared, "I'm truly blessed because people like George and Ann Marie want to be here with the Venturers. They want to evangelize; they want to spread the word of God."

Robert Peterson lives in Ramsey, N.J.

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