By Peter De Trolio III
Once upon a time, I was a very proud Eagle Scout. Today, I refuse to associate myself with the Boy Scouts of America. For a very short time, I felt like an orphan – but then I heard about the Troops of St. George.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. The Troops are not a Catholic Boy Scouts; they are a very different thing. In fact, they are much more.
The Troops are an outdoor organization for boys where they learn about themselves and nature and they do it alongside their dad. And they learn accompanied by a priest who guides them spiritually while offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Alongside their camping knife, they have a rosary to pray, contemplating the mysteries of the rosary as they contemplate the mysteries of nature. Boys learn to be men alongside their natural and spiritual fathers, under the guidance of their mystical mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. (And by the way, She is the only woman invited to come along on Troop activities!)
Here’s the story, from Brian Squibbs, their National Director for Communications and Recruitment.
REGINA: What prompted the founding of the Troops of St. George?
BRIAN: Dr. Taylor Marshall founded Troops of Saint George in the summer of 2013 as he sought an outdoors organization rooted in our Catholic faith. He was looking to offer an apostolate that didn’t compromise the faith and Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church while embarking in an outdoors adventure.
REGINA: Did he have experience in boys’ youth organizations before this?
BRIAN: Dr. Taylor Marshall was an Eagle Scout. As the apostolate quickly gained interest, many with experience in other outdoors organizations, either personal in their youth or with their youth, started to join and offer their knowledge drawn from experience. Dr. Jeremy Lustig, our Executive Director and Chairman of the Board is also an Eagle Scout and was participating in scouting with his eldest son prior to joining the Troops of Saint George.
REGINA: What did you find lacking in existing boys youth organizations that you felt the need for a new organization?
BRIAN: The two fundamental roots: 1) First and foremost, we are Catholic and the outdoors is simply the context we experience the growth in our faith 2) To help combat the culture of death and what society has to offer, men need to be around other man to help grow in their authentic masculinity, so the father/adult male guardian – son charism was created. We feel there are numerous opportunities and organizations where the foundation is rooted in dropping your child off to obtain formation, whether it be in sports, schooling, or outdoor activities. This organization fills a gap that we feel needed to be filled in that it offers a place for fathers and sons to be unified, and to experience growth ‘together’.
REGINA: What has been the reaction of the Catholic Committee on Scouting to the founding of the Troops of St. George?
BRIAN: Beyond some early brief correspondence the first year, dialogue has been non-existent at the national level.
REGINA: Have you encountered any issues from Diocesan or local parishes?
BRIAN: We have encountered two main difficulties to date. The first having to do with the national organization being approved by our local diocese as an apostolate of the Catholic Church, to which we can now call a difficulty of the past with receipt of this recognition as of May 2018. While it is not a requirement for approval at every diocese, should that be a need in a particular diocese, the heavy lifting has been completed by Bishop Michael Olson and the team at the Diocese of Fort Worth.
BRIAN: The second difficulty centers around General Liability insurance at the troop level. While we provide Activity (Accident) insurance for each member, General Liability coverage has been a bit difficult to secure and at an affordable price. This is one the main items we are attempting to tackle with our current matching donation campaign running through June 30th. All donations are matched 100% up to $35,000 for a total of $70,000 as achieved.
REGINA: Do you have a training program for adult volunteers?
BRIAN: While we have a base level Starter Kit, as well as a Captain’s Forum for sharing of “best practices”, we do not have a formal training program in these early years. We do see to it that all leaders within a troop are trained and vetted with their local diocesan Child Safety program, or we provide that training in the event it is not easily accessible.
REGINA: Can women volunteer to help?
BRIAN: While my wife volunteers at the national level, and we know there are many wives and grandmothers who have assisted in some way, the organizations’ members are made up of clergy, fathers/male guardians and male youth.
REGINA: An organization of this character costs money to run. How do you finance the Troops?
BRIAN: Primarily, our funding comes from the membership dues of $30.00 per member per calendar year. We then raise funds through donations and our online store. We are a non-profit (501C3) organization that is also volunteer-run with only one employee to date.
REGINA: Other boys’ organizations have a large network and good reputation for their former excellent efforts. How are you able to get your message across to boys in this face of this competition?
BRIAN: In the end, sticking to the mission and apostolate the Holy Spirit has called us to carry out. We have never been about numbers, as we simply seek to offer a safe environment for men and boys to grow in their faith in Christ through the context of the outdoor adventure. The rest will take care of itself as it is the Lord’s will. Further, we do not consider these other networks and organizations as competitors. We stand alone. There are no other ‘father-son’ organizations we are aware of in this capacity, so this distinction makes us drastically different.
REGINA: Boys enjoy working on rank badges and skill badges; do you have such a structure in the Troops?
BRIAN: For the Junior Cadets, 1st – 5th grade (St. Mathew’s Angels, St. Mark’s Lions, St. Luke’s Oxen, bulls, St. John’s Eagles and Saint George’s Dragon Slayers), they have yearly requirements to complete to move onto the next patrol level. Then, the Senior Cadets 6th – 12th grade, formed under the name of a Blessed or Saint of their choosing, work on completing Achievement Courses. There are currently 20 available from Apologetics to Camping to Safety to Latin to Altar Service, etc.
REGINA: And for older boys?
BRIAN: As the Senior Cadet completes 16 (8 of which are mandatory), they can then complete a service project for their local pastor/parish and then complete the Survival Ordeal. Once completed, they are then awarded the rank of Tribunes of Saint George for our Supreme Pontiff. As added encouragement, the Achievement Courses completed alongside of their father/male guardian, have a special star with a gold border awarded (one star for each 4 AC’s completed for a total of 4 stars on the way to Tribune). The father/male guardian is also able to secure the Tribune rank.
REGINA: And the uniform?
BRIAN: To keep the uniform practical, there is not a lot of adornment and patches, as we desired something that could be worn in both a dress situation, as well as out on a rugged camping trip.
REGINA: Can interested non-Catholic boys participate?
BRIAN: The mission we have been called to centers on Catholic young men. As the Lord always provides, there are other great outdoors organizations that cater to more of a non-denominational Christian program.
REGINA: As you grow, what new challenges are you facing?
BRIAN: With a volunteer staff, being able to communicate with folks reaching out for information in a timely fashion. We have committed to a 48 hour turn around with a goal of response within the first 24 hours. At this point, we are achieving this 95% of the time, but can foresee this will grow challenging in the years to come as the apostolate grows. We foresee the need to add a paid team of staff, but for now, we are managing, as the Lord provides the energy and passion.
REGINA: How can Catholics help?
BRIAN: First and foremost, by keeping us in their prayers. Secondly, as called to do so, support through spreading the word and financially through donations are greatly appreciated, most especially in these early years.