I am very happy to be invited here today to celebrate 50 golden years of scouting in Dungannon.  I will tell you why! 

So many times I have come here to Dungannon to say Mass and as we go from the Sacristy to the Church- now your most beautiful, newly refurbished Church – there is always this wonderful Guard of Honour of Scouts, Cubs and Beavers.  There you are, in hail, rain or snow, and once I see the neckerchief, I know it is the Scouts and their leaders – on a Guard of Honour, offering a salute of respect and welcome. 

I thank you for that.  I know that you are there to honour me, not as Seán Brady, but as the Successor of St. Patrick, the man who came to bring us something great and good – the man who came back to us despite the fact that when he was here the first time, we treated him rather badly by making him herd sheep and pigs and goats on the side of a mountain in hail, rain and snow, just like you in the Guard of Honour.

I notice, with joy, that your Final Hymn is Hail Glorious St. Patrick.  I once had the chance to say Mass for the Irish Soccer team.  It was nineteen (19) years ago and they had reached the World Cup Final and were about to play Italy in Rome.  It was the 29th of June, I think, and they too had, as their Final Hymn, Hail Glorious St. Patrick.  I was told that they always sing that hymn at the top of their voices, especially the verse which goes like this.

Hail Glorious St. Patrick
Thy words were once strong
Against Satan wiles
And an infidel throng
Not less is thy might
Where in heaven thou art
O come to our aid,
In our battle take part.

Today, like the month of January, we look back and we look forward.  Back over fifty (50) years of Scouting in Dungannon.  I thank God for all the good that came from that.  We give thanks for that call which Aloysius McCourt and Patsy McCooey paid to Dean John Quinn one October night 50 years ago.  We are grateful for the support of people like Dr McCluskey and Bernard McBride and Bertie Foley and many others who got the idea off the ground.  We give thanks for the 1st Tyrone Scout Troop which soon became 1st Tyrone Scout Unit.  We remember the fund-raising – like Bob a Job Week, – the weekend camps, summer camps, the overseas trips to Lourdes and Paris; the arrival of foreign Scouts and the building of the new Scout Den in 1970.

I saw the question asked in 2004:  Has Scouting Got a Future?  It seems to me that the answer is this.  Yes, it has got a future if there are enough people, so strongly convinced that Scouting has so much to offer that they are prepared to work hard to ensure that it has a future.  So, as we look forward we hope that there will be parents and leaders, willing to work for the future of Scouting – people who appreciate the part that Scouting and organisations like it can play in helping young people become the kind of people their Creator wants them to become. 

It will have a future if there are Chaplains who will insist that Scouting is more than ‘Scouting’ in the literal sense of the word – the skills of military reconnaissance in every territory, using such skills as camouflage, disguise, mapping and survival.  Today’s liturgy reminds us that there is more to Scouting than that.  The rope – one of the gifts – carried up in the Presentation at the beginning – reminds us of God’s love for us.  God’s love holds us always in a knot.  Like a good knot, God’s love holds us safely –it will never slip. 

The motto of Irish Scouting is Bi Ullamh – Be prepared – be prepared for what?
•    Be prepared to help or to harass.  To help of course.
•    Be prepared to recognise the presence of God’s love in our lives, or be prepared to ignore it.
•    Be prepared to see that we are put on this Earth to praise God – by doing the good we are supposed to do, or be prepared to enjoy ourselves all the time without paying any attention to what others want.

We already said we are here to offer this Mass for all the benefits received through these past 50 years.  Now is the time to stop and remember these benefits – one by one – and to really give thanks for them.

Today we give thanks for all those who gave, and continue to give, freely and voluntarily of their free time to Scouting in Dungannon.  They appreciated the true nature of the noble enterprise of education of children and young people.  The parents are involved – and so also are the schools – they play the major part.  But the local community has a part to play.  The parish also has a big part to play in organisations like Scouting.

Scouting includes adventure in the outdoors.  It provides an opportunity to see the beauty of the sea and the mountains, the forests and the fields. 

The candle, carried up at the beginning, is a sign of the Light of Christ.  The Light of Christ comes to us from two books – the Book of the Bible and we heard three readings from that today.  The Light of Christ comes to us also from the Book of Nature – the Book of Creation.  The Light of Christ shows us the Face of Christ so that we can model our lives on the life of Christ.

Scouting involves working with friends in small groups.  Jesus Christ spent a lot of his time working with a small group of friends.  He called them his disciples.  The work consisted of teaching them his way of doing things.  He said he had come, not to be served but to serve and give his life for others.  He told his friends that they would have to do the same.  Service to others is a big part of Scouting.  Of course you could be convinced of the benefits which Scouting brings and still not be prepared for the sacrifices which Scouting involves.  To get that generosity we need to pray – to pray constantly – especially to pray the Prayer of the Sunday Mass.  There we are reminded of how much Jesus gave and we ask to be made like him. 

I hope that I have said enough to convince you that Scouting has a great future.  One of the priests I most admired was Father Torlac O’Reilly, a priest from my native diocese of Kilmore.  He bought a minibus to bring Scouts around.  He used to give it to me to bring young footballers to matches.  Father Torlac spent a lot of his free time in Scouting – building a scout Den – going on scout outings – producing a Scout pantomime – praying with Scouts and praying for Scouts – because he loved young people with the love of Jesus Christ.  Father Torlac died about ten years ago.  There were tears in the eyes of many young people, and of the not so young, when they laid him to rest in the sticky, grey soil of Drung cemetery outside Cavan town.

Yes, Scouting has a great future for those who take the time to look at it and see what it really involves.