Even in Alaska, Catholic parishes are embracing Trail Life. The Alaskan Catholic publication, the Catholic Anchor, recently published a featured article on Trail Life, Youth scouting programs aim to kindle love of God and nature. During regional rounds-ups, the Trailmen of OR-1531 enjoy sharing adventures with other troops in the Northwest region, including Alaska. Equally important during these times is praying together, including the rosary and divine office, around the campfire.
Youth scouting programs have a long history in the United States. Perhaps the two most well known scouting organizations throughout the country are the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. But newer groups like the American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA are on the rise in recent years.
Many parishes in Alaska and around the country host youth scouting troops and the church has a long history of supporting and ministering to the various scouting organizations.
Many parents now desire more explicitly Christian scouting groups that prioritize the faith. While local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, which are chartered at parishes, incorporate Catholic principles into their troops, the national organizations have de-emphasized the Christian foundation on which they began.
Some Alaska parents have opted for one of the newer scouting alternatives, which have developed around the country and are growing quickly. Two of the most well known programs are American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA. Trail Life USA has a chartered troop at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, and American Heritage Girls has chartered troops at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River and Sacred Heart Church in Wasilla.
For boys, Trail Life USA is the leader among alternative scouting organizations. A Christian character development group, the organization is now established in 48 states. Their mission is “to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, lead others, and experience outdoor adventure.” Like American Heritage Girls, what sets it apart is that the program is intentionally centered on Christian values and faith.
David Syzdek has two sons in the Trail Life group at Holy Family Cathedral, and he will be a leader this year.
Syzdek said it is important that the group reinforces faith, noting “Christian values are permeated throughout the whole program.”