Time Capsule • August 24, 2020

In this undated photo, Bishop John J. Russell distributes Communion to a scout during the field Mass celebrated at the conclusion of the annual Boy Scout Jamboree. (Photo/Diocese of Richmond Archives)



The most illustrious scout associated with the Diocese of Richmond is on the path to sainthood: Francis J. Parater III (1887–1920), who embodied the ideals of scouting and who was a devout Catholic.

After attaining the rank of Eagle Scout in high school, Parater entered the seminary and was eventually sent to the North American College in Rome. There, he died unexpectedly of rheumatic fever at age 22 and was buried. Parater had offered his life and death “for the conversion of the non-Catholics of Virginia.” The cause for his canonization began in 2001.

Parater professed his deep Catholic faith to his fellow scouts in a letter that was discovered after his death: “Dear Old Scouts: You may never see this letter, but if you do, it is to tell you that God has granted me the greatest desire of my life — to die for love of Him and of my fellow-man.”

He concluded the letter on a hopeful note of friendship: “And now, old scouts, I must say, so long for a time. But occasionally think of your old friend and camp director, and when the time comes for you to hit the trail for home, I’ll promise to be near and to welcome you to the camp-fire of eternal life.”

The life of Parater aptly demonstrated the shared values of scouting and religion. The Richmond Diocese has sought to contribute to that synergy by promoting scouting programs and activities. That effort included the establishment of a Diocesan Boy Scout Committee in 1939, in collaboration with the national Catholic Committee on Scouting, with the goal of organizing a Boy Scout troop in every parish in the diocese.

At that time, Peter L. Ireton, the coadjutor bishop and administrator of the diocese, and later the ninth bishop of Richmond (1935–1958), encouraged this endeavor as a way of shaping the character of boys.

Diocesan support for scouting continues to the present day as an integral part of the Church’s ministry to young people, and includes various organizations: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls and Trail Life.

There is a scout chaplain — Father Robert J. Cole, pastor of St. John the Apostle Parish, Virginia Beach — and a Scouting Committee in each of the diocese’s three vicariates. The diocese facilitates instruction needed to obtain religious scouting emblems, and each year Bishop Barry C. Knestout celebrates a Scout Mass in March.

In August 1938, The Catholic Virginian announced the diocese’s first Catholic Boy Scout Jamboree, which included a field Mass:

Catholic Boy Scouts in the Diocese will be interested in the announcement that a diocesan Boy Scout Jamboree will be held at Camp Shawondasee, near Richmond, on August 19, 20 and 21. Although scouting is not new to the Diocese, this is the first time an event of this kind has been planned. …

Each scout is expected to bring his own food supply for the entire time of the Jamboree, as also his necessary equipment, such as tent, blanket, etc. …

Water sports will be enjoyed each morning and afternoon… A Camp Fire program, headed by a guest entertainer, will be held at 7:45 on Saturday evening. The climax of the Jamboree will be the field Mass at eleven o’clock Sunday morning in the amphitheatre.

Scroll to Top