(SEPTEMBER 4, 2018) — What began five years ago as a summertime outing for Troop 73 from Osceola, Wis., has morphed into an annual event for all Troops of St. George.
“This summer event was cooked up by our first captain, Randy Borne, and our chaplain Fr. William Brenna,” said Tom Brannon, the current captain of Troop 73.
Last year, the event was held at Round Hill-Camp Angelus in Arkansaw, Wis., and it became the first annual Troops of Saint George’s Midwest Assembly. The property was founded by now-Cardinal Raymond Burke when he was bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis. Today, the camp is governed by a board and operated as a non-profit organization, a “historical and sacred Catholic refuge for families located on the beautiful Chippewa River.”
This summer, their second annual event —Aug. 16-19—drew nearly 80 fathers and sons from troops in Wisconsin and Minnesota. That doubled last year’s attendance.
“We already have interest in next year’s event from troops in Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas,” said Brian Squibbs, TSG’s National Director of Communications and Recruitment. “The exciting thing is that families who come for the Midwest Assembly can turn the trip into a pilgrimage as well.”
There are two holy sites in Wisconsin within driving distance, Squibbs said, pointing to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help (site of the lone authenticated Marian apparition on U.S. soil) in Champion, and to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, founded by Cardinal Burke.
Prayer, Sacraments, and Fellowship
“For us, the big takeaway of this year’s Assembly was the sacraments,” explained Squibbs, who took his 12-year-old son, Alex, to the weekend gathering. “We started each morning with prayer and Mass, then a full day of activity—virtuous, masculine activity—and remarkable camaraderie. Starting the day with prayer and the sacraments, that’s the guiding light for us. You see the sun coming up, and Father raising the Eucharist. It was beautiful.”
Two priests gave talks, celebrated Mass, and heard Confessions during the Assembly—Fr. Gregory Parrott from the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and Fr. Randal Kasel from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
“Father Kasel gave four talks to the men and the boys on The Four Last Things,” Squibbs said. “It was remarkable.”
Brannon, leader of Troop 73, agreed.
A Retreat in the Great Outdoors
“Not only were the sacraments key, but the location was perfect for this gathering,” Brannon explained. “Round Hill is unique. There are 100 acres meant for families in the diocese to use at their convenience. The Troops of Saint George is an outdoors organization, so our meetings are conducted outside whenever possible, and we emphasize the importance of boys—and also dads—learning outdoor skills.”
Brannon—who brought two of his boys, Eddie (13) and Mikey (7), to the Midwest Assembly—emphasized that the weekend was set up as a retreat. Father Kasel gave talks in the mornings and afternoons, and he was available for Confession every day.
“That was the most important aspect of this gathering,” he said. “What we do is certainly different from other organizations. Many of us are ex-Scouts and were looking for an alternative. But today people shouldn’t be looking at the Troops as an alternative, but as something entirely new.
“TSG is 100% Catholic and, unlike other organizations, the father and son go through the achievement courses together,” he added. “It’s not a matter of a father dropping his son off for a Scoutmaster to take care of.”
The Midwest Assembly also drew the attention of Jordan Barry, son of EWTN’s Doug Barry. A renowned videographer, Jordan is in the process of creating video spots to help promote the Troops of Saint George nationally. Watch for the roll-out coming soon!