Scouts encounter their faith in nature

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More than 6,000 Scouts descended on Goshen Scout Reservation near Lake Merriweather to earn merit badges, explore nature and cultivate friendships. They also learned about faith thanks to Father Augustine Minh Hai Tran, Scouting chaplain for the Arlington Diocese.

Father Tran, a parochial vicar at St. James Church in Falls Church, has been serving as the full-time diocesan Scouting chaplain since June.

During his month at camp, he balances his responsibilities celebrating daily and weekend Masses for Catholic Scouts with accompanying and counseling the Scouts and their parents at Goshen - a facility of six camps including Camp Bowman, Camp Marriott, Camp Olmsted, Camp PMI, Camp Ross and Lenhok'sin that cater to campers ages 9 to 20.

Msgr. John B. Brady, who has served at Goshen since 1967, was not able to do so this year because of poor health. Unlike Msgr. Brady, a lifelong Scout, Father Tran has never been a Scout and said this has been an eye-opening experience.

Father Tran said being the chaplain at Goshen has given him a chance to see what is happening with other Scouts from the diocese. Father Tran knows the troop from St. James but at Goshen he encountered troops from St. Leo the Great, Holy Spirit, All Saints, the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Our Lady of Good Counsel and others.

"We all come together," said Father Tran. "Even though we are from different parts of the country and parishes we are one Catholic faith."

Not all the Scouts are Catholic, but Father Tran sees many of the boys interested in their faith lives.

"Even though the children are away from home they still make the effort to come to Mass every day," he said. "I feel our diocese is very blessed because we have people like that who take the initiative."

The Scout Oath says, "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

Father Tran pointed out it is one thing to say it and another to put it into practice.

At Goshen, "The Scouts have the opportunity to encounter God in nature, in the words and in the Word made flesh in the Eucharist," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016