A Brief History of the Catholic
Religious Emblem ProgramsClick here for Home

   The below history is a work in progress. The information on this page is based on the research I had done at the time. Subsequent research might bring to light new facts which might require corrections. I do not plan to make any corrections to this page until the book has been published. However, it does provide a basic outline of the development of the programs.

Ad Altare Dei

   Sensing a need for more spiritual development in the Scouting program, the Rev. James E. Dolan created the Ad Altare Dei program in 1926. This program, which was developed for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, successfully blended Scouting with religious activities in a program that quickly became very popular.

   The aim of the first program Fr. Dolan developed was to recognize those First Class Scouts who had served "with loyalty and fidelity" as altar boys during their tenure as Scouts. He named the program Ad Altare Dei and created the Ad Altare Dei Cross as it's emblem. The English translation of the name means: "to the Altar of God." The Latin phrase comes from the 43rd Psalm and it was also part of the preparatory prayers the priest said at the beginning of the Tridentine Mass: "Introibo ad altare Dei" ("I will go up to God's altar"). And therefore appropriate to recognize those Scouts who gave service to the altar. The first Ad Altare Dei Cross was awarded to Edward Thurin on February 7, 1926.

   Fr. Dolan presented reports on his program at the Annual Scout Chaplains Conferences. Many of the other chaplains were eager to use Fr. Dolan's program in their own diocese. However, there were some notable and vocal detractors to the idea of a religious emblem amongst the chaplains.

   After the majority of Chaplains voted to recommend the use of this award at an Annual Scout Chaplains Conference, it was presented to the Bishop's Committee. At the 1939 Annual Bishops' Committee meeting, approval was given to the Ad Altare Dei award "in principle and [the Bishop's Committee] appointed a subcommittee to develop a suitable emblem."

   Later in that same year, the BSA Committee on Badges, Awards, Scout Requirements and Uniform Design authorized Scouts of Catholic faith to wear the AAD Cross on the scout uniform.

   The Diocesan Scout Chaplain's Conferences developed a set of regulations for the Ad Altare Dei emblem that was approved by the Bishop's Committee. On December 14, 1939, the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America approved the wearing of the Ad Altare Dei Emblem on the Scout uniform. This was not only the first Catholic religious emblem, but the first religious emblem offered by any religious organization to Boy Scouts.

   The original emblem was very similar to today's emblem. However, instead of a plain cross, on the cross was the Boy Scout First Class Badge. When the program was brought up for discussion at the national level, it was the feeling of the chaplains that the Scout Badge should be removed.

   The first emblems were presented nationwide in 1941. During the first nineteen months after its approval, nearly 3,000 emblems were presented. The aim of the program was "an attempt to teach and inculcate a Catholic way of living through the Scouting program." The first set of requirements stated the Scout had to be at least First Class, a member of a registered Troop of the Boy Scouts of America, a resident within the diocese, and had served the altar in any capacity for 250 hours. To be eligible for the emblem, the Scout had to demonstrate his ability to make all responses in Latin. The Scout's Pastor had to certify also that the Scout was worthy to receive the emblem because of his punctuality, fitness, decorum on the altar and devotion.

   Scouts of lower rank could receive credits toward the Ad Altare Dei. However, they could not receive the emblem until they had attained the rank of First Class Scout. Credits for service were established as follows: 1 hour for service at a Low Mass, Rosary and Benediction, and Stations of the Cross; and 2 hours for service at a High Mass, Solemn High Mass, or Holy Hour (or comparable service).

   In 1946, new national minimum requirements were established. These new requirements were developed in three steps, which in the spiritual realm, were comparable to the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks. To be eligible a Catholic boy had to have given his parish one year of service as a registered Scout and have attained at least the rank of First Class. The requirements could be grouped under four headings: 1) Service to Church and school, 2) Catechism doctrine, 3) Other knowledge, and 4) Projects.

   After more than twenty-five years since inception, the Steering Committee of the Ad Altare Dei Committee completed more than two years of study on the Ad Altare Dei program and presented the revised program at the 19th Biennial Conference (1966). This was the first major revision of the Ad Altare Dei program since 1946. The emphasis on the revised program was on the seven sacraments. After its approval, the complete revision and new format, was to be "polished up" by an order of teaching nuns in Kansas City, Mo.

   Beginning in 1988, with a survey of the Diocesan Scout Chaplains, the Ad Altare Dei started another revision process. This was the first major revision process of the program since 1967. The revision called for the replacement of the record book with a logbook-type format. The revised Ad Altare Dei program was field tested during the fall of 1991 and a national pilot program was conducted in the fall of 1992 and the winter of 1993. The final draft was presented to the NCCS at its' 33rd Biennial Conference in Albuquerque for approval.

   As of today, more than 300,000 Ad Altare Dei emblems have been presented.

Pope Pius XII

   At the 16th Biennial Conference (1960) in Milwaukee, the Catholic Committee on Scouting approved a program for Catholic Explorers. The requirements for the Award were reviewed and approved by the Diocesan Chaplains and Lay Chairmen at the Conference and approved by the executive committee. The purpose of this program was to "develop articulate Catholics." The program was called the Pope Pius XII Award. Action was taken to make an appropriate Pope Pius XII plaque the official award.

   The Pope Pius XII Award for Explorers was first shown at the annual meeting of the National Catholic Laymen's Committee in Detroit on June 1, 1961. The award was a 5" x 7" bronze plate attached to a 7" x 9" piece of finished walnut, 7/8" thick. The plaque depicted the likeness of Pope Pius XII. Under the likeness was the wording, in Old English lettering: "Pope Pius XII Award for Explorers." Adequate space was provided for the engraving of the Explorer's name. In the lower left hand corner was the Explorer insignia and in the lower right hand corner was the seal of the Catholic Committee on Scouting. Between the two insignias was the Latin phrase: "Darum Civitatum Cives, Dei atque Hominum". Which means "Citizens of Two Worlds, God's and Man's."

   In 1962 the Pope Pius XII Award program was extended to Scouts of High School age who had already received the Ad Altare Dei.

   A group of priests and Explorers from throughout the country presented a new Pope Pius XII program at the 20th Biennial Conference (1968), in Washington, DC. The revised Pope Pius XII program replaced the Pope Pius XII Award with a Pope Pius XII Emblem. In 1968, the Boy Scouts of America opened the career-oriented posts of the Exploring program to girls. This move allowed female Explorers an opportunity to earn the Pius emblem for the first time.

   The restriction that Boy Scouts had to earn first the Ad Altare Dei before beginning to work on the Pope Pius XII emblem was removed by the NCCS Executive Board at its meeting in Denver, CO, in 1987.

   A new revised Pope Pius XII program and Pope Pius XII Moderator's Guide was approved by the NCCS Executive Board in 1989 and presented to the NCCS at its 31st Biennial Conference (1990) in Las Vegas for adoption.

   Over 23,000 Scouts and Explorers have received the Pope Pius XII emblem.

Parvuli Dei

   In 1953, the Rev. Gerard A. McWilliams, then assistant pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Bethesda, MD, compiled a list of achievements for an award to be earned by Cub Scouts of the Catholic faith. These were religious achievements simply arranged so the boy would show how he had fulfilled his Duty to God and to his church to the best of his ability while advancing in the Cub Scout program. The award was called Parvuli Dei, meaning "Little Children of God." The original award depicted the Infant of Prague struck in white medal. Cub Scout Patrick Bell of Pack 300 earned the first Parvuli Dei award in the Archdiocese of Washington on February 8, 1953.

   As with the Ad Altare Dei, other dioceses learned of this program and began requesting information. Finally on April 12, 1956, at the 14th Biennial Conference of Diocesan Scout Chaplains, in Kansas City, MO, it was unanimously approved as a national religious emblem program.

   At the 16th Biennial Conference (1960) in Milwaukee, it was approved to change the requirement that a Cub Scout, to qualify for the Parvuli Dei emblem, be a Bear Cub Scout instead of a Lion Cub Scout. In 1964, for the first time the number of Parvuli Dei emblems awarded, in a single year, surpassed the 10,000 mark. Also during 1964, the wearing of the Parvuli Dei bar on the Boy Scout uniform was approved.

   In January 1968 the Cub Scout program was revised so it was impossible for a boy to secure the Bear Badge if he joined Cub Scouts at ten years of age. So, in the Parvuli Dei program the Catholic Committee on Scouting substituted the earning of five Webelos badges in place of the Bear rank.

   A new Parvuli Dei program, called "A Christian family Program for Cub Scouts," was made available by August 1972. Approval for the new program was given at the 22nd Biennial Conference (1972) in New Orleans.

   At the 29th Biennial Conference (1986) in Kansas City, MO, the NCCS adopted a revision of the Parvuli Dei program. The new revision expanded the Parvuli Dei Record Book into an Activity Book. The revision also restricted the program to Catholic Cub Scouts who had completed the 2nd grade.

   Almost 450,000 Cub Scouts have earned the Parvuli Dei emblem since it was made available.

Light of Christ

   In 1982, Tiger Cubs, BSA, was introduced as a national program designed for seven year old boys, or those in the second grade. In 1985, the BSA approved a five year transition period to expand the entire Cub Scouting program to start September 1, 1986. As of this date, the age to join Tiger Cubs was lowered to boys in the first grade. This transition eventually placed the joining/ advancement level on grade levels (1st grade-Tiger Cubs; 2nd grade-Wolf; 3rd grade-Bear, and; 4th and 5th grade-Webelos Scouts).

   From the day the new Tiger Cubs program was announced, the NCCS considered the feasibility and advisability of developing a religious emblem program for Tiger Cubs. The consensus was to wait for the new program to stabilize, especially as the Parvuli Dei program was being revised. When the age for Tiger Cubs was dropped just four years later, it was viewed as proof that the Tiger Cubs program was still in transition and thus argued against the development of a religious emblem.

   Another factor brought into this debate was sacramental preparation. The vast majority of first and second grade youth are involved in preparing to receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. It was argued that a religious emblem program, for this age of Catholic boys, would present a conflict with this important period in their faith live.

   The last objection to a Tiger Cub Religious Emblem was the program itself . Tiger Cubs was designed to be simple and flexible. As such, it did not provide for an advancement program, as in Cub Scouting, nor did it require uniforms. It was arranged around suggested "Big Idea" activities which Tiger Groups could use any, all, or none. Thus the committee felt that introducing a formal emblem program would be in direct contradiction to the goals and program methodology of Tiger Cubs. To provide some faith experience for these scouts, the committee approved a "Big Idea" based on Catholic faith traditions.

   However, the Catholic "Big Idea" activity did not satisfy parents and scouters. This was due in large part to the introduction of the "God and Me" program, which was available to Protestant Tigers. Many parents asked why Catholic Tigers could not earn an emblem, while Protestant Tigers could. To remedy this situation, many diocesan committees started to develop local programs for their Tigers.

   The proliferation of diocesan programs and the pressure from parents and scouters caused the committee to begin the development of a Tiger Cub program. A survey of diocesan programs was conducted in 1989 and a committee was formed to develop a draft. The basis for the draft was a program called "Agnus Dei", developed by the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.

   In 1986, sensing the possible need for an emblem program for Tiger Cubs, David Peavy asked Anne Bryant to develop a program for Tiger/Wolf Cub Scouts. After many meetings between the two, a program was developed and presented to the Galveston-Houston Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting for use of the Agnus Dei within the diocese. Approval was granted and the program, which was recognized with a patch, took off in the diocese.

   In 1990, the Agnus Dei program was presented to the NCCS Religious Emblems committee as a draft for a national religious emblem. After field tests, the program was presented and approved at the 32nd Biennial Conference (1992). The NCCS Executive Board voted to name the program "Light of Christ."

   In its' first year of availability, some 9,000 Light of Christ emblems were presented. Quite astounding when you realize it took Parvuli Dei eight years to break 10,000 emblems in one year.

St. George Emblem

   At the 12th Biennial Conference (1952) of the Chaplains' and Laymen's Committees in San Francisco, Ca, it was proposed that a recognition be adopted for adult Scouters active in the program. The purpose of the emblem was to recognize those individuals who had made a significant contribution to the spiritual development of Catholic youth in the program of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1954 the St. George emblem was approved for Catholic adult laymen.

   At the 20th Biennial Conference (1968) in Washington, DC, it was approved that the St. George emblem might be presented to non Catholics, to women, and to clergy and religious. As soon as this regulation was adopted, the committee voted as a whole to present the St. George emblem to Bishop Connare, who thus became the first clergyman to receive the emblem.

   Before this change in the St. George, the NCCS presented to selected clergy, "gold and jewel encrusted Ad Altare Dei medals."

   Prior to the adoption of the St. George emblem, the New York Archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting had developed the Bronze Pelican award in 1950. The purpose of the award was similar to that approved for the St. George emblem.

   People have inquired as to the development of the Light is Life program. It is not presented on this page because of an oversight or a slight to the Eastern Churches. It is simply due to my inability to access primary material on this emblem.

   The driving force behind Light is Life was the Rev. Nicholas Rachford. The program was adopted by the NCCS in 1980 for Oriental Catholics whose churches are in communion with the Roman Church.

   For years I have requested Nick to provide me with some primary material on the development of this emblem. Even when I was helping him draft a program and counselor's guide for the emblem, I asked him for at least a couple of paragraphs on the history. So far I've yet to receive any information from Nick. Granted he is a busy man and he may have plans to write a book/article on the history of the Light is Life. In that case, I will be happy to refer readers to his work.

   In the meantime, please address any requests for information on the Light is Life to Fr. Nick, not me. Thanks!



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