Msgr. John B. Brady: Celebrating Scouting's 'Treasures'

By Kathy Vilim DaGroomes

A Scouter-priest with 65 years in the movement extols the unparalleled challenges that Scouting offers young people and adults to excel and give service; the extraordinary dedication of volunteers; and the compatibility between the aims of Catholic youth ministry and the mission of Scouting.

Summer 2005 saw the priest attend his 11th national Scout jamboree.
Photographs By Michael Hoyt

During the 2006 BSA National Annual Meeting, Msgr. John B. Brady, a Catholic priest of the Washington, D.C., archdiocese, was presented the Silver St. George Award by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS). The prestigious award, inaugurated in 1997, recognizes outstanding service to Catholic Scouting at the national level.

Monsignor Brady, 77, an Eagle Scout who received his call to the priesthood while visiting the 1950 National Scout Jamboree, was ordained in 1955. A pioneer Philmont Scout Ranch chaplain, the priest is a founder of the national Scouter Development program of the NCCS and a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award for outstanding service to youth within the National Capital Area Council.

A canoeing enthusiast and ham radio hobbyist, he followed his constant enthusiasm to promote Catholic Scouting by starting Sea Scout Ship 548 during his last assignment as a church pastor.

Msgr. Brady currently serves as acting Scouting chaplain for the NCCS's region four (covering Catholic dioceses in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.). He was the Washington archdiocesan Scout chaplain for Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting, and Camp Fire for 24 years beginning in 1960.

A longtime advisory board member of the NCCS, the soft-spoken priest recently talked with Scouting magazine's Associate Editor Kathy Vilim DaGroomes about the aspects of Scouting that have particularly impressed and impacted him during his half-century's experience as both priest and chaplain. Msgr. Brady spoke of the "hidden treasures" and "camaraderie" that can be found in the Scouting movement.

There are more than 305,000 youth in some 9,500 BSA units chartered by Catholic institutions in the United States. Why is the Catholic Church such a strong supporter of Scouting?

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved three goals for ministry with young people in a document called "Renewing the Vision." The goals are these: to empower the young to live the young to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world; to draw them to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the faith community; and to foster the personal and spiritual growth of each young person.

Scouting offers a powerful program to fulfill all three of these goals, especially No. 3: fostering the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person. Taken together, the Scout Oath and Law—which begins with "duty to God" and ends with "A Scout is reverent," two bookends for the entire Scouting program—is one of the world's best tools to challenge young people to live by the highest standards that God expects of the human beings He places on this earth.

You've referred to several aspects of Scouting—including the challenges it offers youth and adults to excel and serve, as well as its dedicated group of volunteers—as "hidden treasures." What do you mean by "hidden treasures" and could you relate Scouting's challenges and volunteers to this concept?

A hidden treasure would be something that is just not obvious to people. First of all, the challenges that Scouting offers to young people and to adults: We challenge young people to become an Eagle Scout; we challenge people to do very hard things, like high adventure, and these are very difficult things. Scouting can challenge a person to the total limits of the human ability; it challenges the doctors; it challenges the ministers and the rabbis and the priests. It challenges all of the adult leaders, and it challenges the youth. We expect them to meet these challenges and by going through this, it increases self-confidence. For example, the Philmont Scout Ranch experience: I think that a 12-day high adventure trek can accomplish more for a young person than two years in the troop or crew program back at home—because the challenge is greater, the difficulty is greater, and it's just a wonderful opportunity for a young person to change from a very scared, unsure person to someone who goes home more mature and filled with confidence about what he or she can actually do.

Msgr. Brady greets Mass attendees as he is introduced as a concelebrant of a liturgy held during the 16th National Scout Jamboree.
Photographs By Michael Hoyt

Secondly, our volunteers: Baden-Powell once said that the movement really started itself. He wrote a book, Scouting for Boys, and the boys took that book and soon they were doing Scouting and forming troops and had leaders. Baden-Powell was astounded to find out that it was possible to find volunteers that were willing to train young people, and that was the backbone of the movement. These volunteers came forth to do it, and we still have that today: We have just marvelous volunteers. That's the great treasure we have in Scouting: all of these wonderful volunteers. Many of them are experts in their own field, and they are willing to help the youth voluntarily on their road of Scouting.

You've mentioned that one of the sterling aspects of the Scouting movement is the "camaraderie" and the buoyancy that unites youth, adults, and people from various religions; can you comment on that, especially as regards the chaplaincy program and other aspects of the movement with which you've been associated?

I've been in many organizations...but I've never found any organization that can bond people together the way Scouting does.

The bonding that takes place in a patrol or troop creates friendships that can last an entire lifetime, and no other group has been able to do that; I think it's because at a very early age, the Scouts begin to look upon their fellow Scouts as brother Scouts, and they take pledges of honor and duty and loyalty, and it seems to last a whole lifetime. You can find it at world jamborees, national jamborees, and summer camps. Experiences like high adventure seem to bond people together, and it's a tremendous thing—even with the different religions—that bonds chaplains of different faiths and Scouts and leaders of different faiths: They are able to come and worship together at Interfaith Services where no other organization seems to be able to do this.

Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.

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