Scouting for the Lord
March 11, 2004
John Schonberger can often be found volunteering with his young charges in the Boy Scouts. Some of the boys created this poster for him, showing a mock tax form in which people list their filing status. (staff photo by Darrell Maurina)
John Schonberger says he has a simple reason for being involved with the Boy Scouts of America for nearly 51 years.
“A three-letter word is fun. If it’s not fun I don’t want to do it,” Schonberger said.
Schonberger will soon be 65 but he has no intention of retiring, either from his accounting practice in downtown Clovis or from his volunteer work with Scouting. At an age where many people look forward to puttering around their gardens at home, Schonberger is preparing to lead his 10th trek to the Philmont retreat center in the New Mexico mountains near Cimarron. The trek will include a 50 to 60 mile hike that starts at 6,000 feet and can go to 12,440 feet.
“I’m too active to do nothing; I’m afraid I’ll die if I don’t stay active,” Schonberger said.
While some are active in Scouting primarily because of the outdoor activities, Schonberger said he sees Scouting as one opportunity to help boys and young men develop a closer relationship with God. For 30 years, Schonberger has chaired the Clovis Catholic Committee on Scouting and also serves as the religious emblems chairman for the Conquistador Council, which includes Scouts from the Clovis area all the way south to Carlsbad. In recognition of his role with the Roman Catholic Church, Schonberger has received all three Roman Catholic adult awards given for Scouting, most recently the Bronze Pelican award which was presented to him Feb. 1
“Every denomination involved in Scouting has its own recognition awards,” Schonberger said. “You grow in your particular religion and you go for your own award, not someone else’s.”
For Roman Catholics, Scouting awards are coordinated through church committees. Some denominations and religious bodies have similar processes and their own special awards; many Protestant bodies cooperate through P.R.A.Y., an interdenominational organization sponsoring programs of religious activities for youth through Scouting. Whether a Scout is Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or a member of any of a number of religious groups, in many cases the Scout has the option of going through a multi-stage program of religious education through which he earns merit badges that are worn on the Cub Scout, Webelos, Boy Scout, or Venturer uniform. Many of the religious groups working with Scouting also offer adult religious awards.
The curriculum leading to the different awards incorporates the distinctives of each denominational or religious tradition, but Schonberger said all of them build on core Scouting values promoting morality, good deeds, and faith in God. The difference from the other Scouting awards is that the counselor for the award will usually be the Scout’s pastor or another religious leader who may or may not be involved in Scouting.
That can sometimes be challenging, and Schonberger said that’s where his role as religious emblems chairman comes in.
“We have a counselor’s book to steer you straight so you don’t go off on your own tangents,” Schonberger said. “Scott Kilian, our district Scout executive, has said I am the only one in the council that pushes religious Scouting. That’s my job to make sure things are done right.”
Maria Waters, a member of Central Baptist Church and of the district Scouting committee, said she’s glad her church is able to be involved in promoting religious activities through the Boy Scouts.
“It’s a six-week program, one day a week, and what’s special about this is it’s not a requirement for Scouts. The boys do it on their own initiative,” Waters said. “Just going to Sunday School and going to church is all great and good, but this provides a different avenue to learn more about God and country, God and family, and then it goes on from there.”
Waters said the local Baptist counselor for Scouting likes to use the illustration of a pizza to describe what he teaches the Baptist Scouts he teaches.
“They focus on how your family is like a pizza with different layers,” Waters said. “You have to have a good foundation which is Christ. Everybody is different, some are pepperonis, some are mushrooms, but they all make a pizza.”