83-year-old Msgr. Brady still a Boy Scout at heart

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"When you're out in the mountains, you're in the presence of God," said Msgr. John B. Brady, a lifelong Scout, Scout chaplain and avid outdoorsman.

He still loves those mountains and rivers even into his eighth decade. When he talks about hiking or canoeing you can see a bit of the young Washington schoolboy and Boy Scout return.

Msgr. Brady was born at Providence Hospital in Washington May 7, 1929, to John and Mary Brady. He was raised in Chevy Chase, Md., attending St. Ann Church in Washington where he was baptized, received first Communion, confirmed and eventually celebrated his first Mass.

Msgr. Brady attended Georgetown Preparatory in Bethesda, Md., and eventually Georgetown University in Washington, where he majored in physics,ran track and was active in ROTC. His father was a patent attorney and hoped his son would eventually earn a law degree and follow him in the trade.

But he took a different path.

At St. Ann he became a Scout at 13, a late age to join, but it was the beginning of his lifelong dedication, and association, with Scouting. Eventually he rose to Eagle Scout at age 16 and then Scout master of troop No. 4 at 21.

He's attended every National Scout Jamboree - they're held every four years - since the first one in Washington, D.C., in 1937.

That jamboree was set around the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin. President Franklin Roosevelt attended. Msgr. Brady said that for obvious logistical reasons, that was the last time a jamboree was held in a major city.

In 1950, while at the jamboree in Valley Forge, Pa., he met Scout chaplain Father Robert Brown. It was a life-changing event.

"What are you going to be?" the priest asked the young man.

He said he was going to make a career out of the military and would be commissioned into the Army after graduation.

"Turn it down," said the priest, "you're going to the seminary."

Following Father Brown's admonition, he enrolled at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained in 1955 by Cardinal Patrick A. O'Boyle in St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington.

"God wanted me to become a priest," he said of his sidelined law career.

His first assignment after ordination was as associate pastor at Holy Redeemer Church in Kensington, Md. He served there until 1963. During his tenure at Holy Redeemer he was appointed the Washington archdiocesan chaplain for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls.

In 1967, Msgr. Brady began his long involvement as chaplain of the Goshen Scout Reservation near Lexington. He goes there every summer and stays on the reservation.

During his priestly ministry, he served as pastor of many parishes in the archdiocese, building churches and even throwing in a stint working for Bishop Fulton J. Sheen distributing the bishop's talks on cassette tapes around the world. But Scouting was always close to his heart and he supported it continuously.

He retired from active ministry in 2005 as pastor of Holy Angels Church in Avenue Md., where he started Sea Scout Troop 548.

When he retired, an award in his name was established by the archdiocese to honor those showing outstanding Scouting leadership.

Even though enrollment in Scouting has declined in recent years, Msgr. Brady said that Scouting can be an important part of a young person's life.

"(Boys) are searching for what they want to do in their life," he said.

Scouting is not an easy path to follow and Msgr. Brady thinks that may have something to do with declining membership.

"We were not called to an easy life," he said. "It's hard. (But) It's one of the most successful youth movements in the world."

Msgr. Brady gives kudos to the Arlington Diocese for its involvement in Scouting.

"(Arlington) Bishop (Paul S.) Loverde is very supportive of the Scouts," he said.

And the numbers show it.

"The Diocese of Arlington has one of the most successful Scouting programs in the nation," said Msgr. Brady, citing national Boy Scouts of America statistics. "Ninety percent of parishes have a Scouting program. Sixty-eight parishes sponsor 63 Scouting units. In addition, the Knights of Columbus sponsor another 23 Scouting units."

Msgr. Brady also said he sees Scouting as a vocational tool and works the National Jamborees.

"I try to spot vocations," he said. "I wouldn't be a priest if it wasn't for the jamboree."

He said he's sent at least one Scout to seminary from every jamboree he's attended as a priest.

He's still active in the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, but being with the Scouts is where is heart is.

This past August, Msgr. Brady packed up camp at Goshen and returned to his home in Bethesda. But next year as summer begins, once again the old Boy Scout will head to western Virginia and live among the Scouts he loves.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012