After serving as the volunteer Director of Scouting for the Diocese of Nashville and as a member of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting for over three decades, as well as chairing the national religious Emblems Committee for many years, Harvey Carter is retiring.
“I’m 74 so it’s time to get a younger person in there who can bring some new ideas in,” said Carter, whose name has been synonymous with Catholic Scouting in the Nashville Diocese for more than a generation.
“Harvey is a true Scouter who dedicated his life to the values of Scouting and the Catholic Church,” said his successor, Paul Bell. “I’m a guy who’s in awe and trying to jump into his shoes.”
Carter, who has worked with Bell for years on local Catholic Scouting endeavors, said that Bell “is very into what our mission is and what we’re trying to accomplish. I think he’ll do an excellent job with it.”
Carter, who has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since he joined a Cub Scout pack at Christ the King Parish in the 1950s, has been dedicated to the organization for more than 60 years. To him, it’s only natural for Scouting and his Catholic faith to be intertwined. “Duty to God, it’s right in there in the Oath,” said Carter, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood. Scouting is an important way for young people “to learn about themselves, God and their faith,” he said.
Over the years, Carter has handed out countless badges and emblems to Boy and Girl Scouts in the diocese who have earned those honors. In 2013, Carter himself received recognition for his many years of service with the prestigious Silver St. George Emblem at the National Catholic Committee on Scouting Convention. The Silver St. George Emblem recognizes dedicated members of the organization who have worked diligently for many years at the national level, and whose accomplishments carrying out the youth-serving mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting have been especially significant.
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting is a committee of concerned Catholic lay people and clergy who see as their mission the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry.
The Committee, which is advisory to the Boy Scouts of America, seeks to sustain and strengthen the relationship between BSA and the U.S. Catholic Church.
Through interaction and dialogue with the Secretariat on the Laity and Family Life (the formal connection between youth ministry in the United States and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), NCCS works cooperatively with various other groups involved in youth ministry in the United States.
While the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is affiliated with the Boy Scouts, the Diocese of Nashville’s Director of Scouting serves all Scouting programs in Middle Tennessee including the Girl Scouts of America, American Heritage Girls USA, and others.
From 2005-2016, Carter was chairman of the Emblems Committee, presiding over all the Boy Scout religious emblems for the Catholic Church across the nation. In addition to the badges earned by Scouts for traditional outdoor skills activities and service, Scouts can also earn religious emblems designed specifically to enhance each Scout’s knowledge of and involvement with their own faith. “It’s a beautiful program,” Carter said.
In recent years, however, Carter has seen a sharp decline in Scouts, both locally and nationally, earning religious emblems. “I hope we can turn that around,” he said.
The decline could be due to a number of factors, Carter said, including fewer schools and parishes chartering Scouting units to fewer Catholic Scouts in non-Catholic units seeking out the emblems. It could also be due to the perception that the Church is no longer a strong supporter of Scouting, due to controversies in recent years like allowing gay Scout leaders.
Bishop David Choby remains “a real champion for Scouting,” said Bell. “He’s very supportive of this type of youth ministry.”
In fact, Bishop Choby recently appointed a new Scout Chaplain for the diocese, Father Austin Gilstrap. “He will be a strong complement to our organization as he is a BSA Eagle Scout and clergy who can contribute to the direction of Scouting in the Catholic Church and Scouting as youth ministry,” said Bell.
As Bell takes over as Director of Scouting, he says he is ready to “jump in and do what needs to be done.” He, like Carter, would like to see a boost in Catholic Scouting in the diocese, and therefore an increase in religious emblems earned. “This is an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion and develop stronger programs,” Bell said. This could include strengthening existing troops and encouraging new ones by partnering with more parent volunteers in Catholic schools and parishes.
As a form of Catholic youth ministry, “Scouting can be a vehicle for a young person to be formed in mind, body and spirit,” Bell said. As he takes on this new role, Bell said, “I’m excited about the program and the responsibility to guide our youth.”
More information on Catholic Scouting in the Diocese of Nashville can be found at: www.ndccos.org/home.