Bishop Donald Kettler will be honored June 24 with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Central Minnesota Council and the Boy Scouts of America.
“We are thrilled to present the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award to Bishop Kettler,” said Paul Ravensberg, director of development for the Central Minnesota Council. “The work he has done to foster interfaith relationships and welcome migrant families and newcomers to central Minnesota truly embodies the Scout Oath and Law. We are fortunate to have a leader of this caliber serving on the Central Minnesota Council’s board of directors.”
As bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Bishop Kettler is responsible for the pastoral care of more than 133,000 Catholics across 16 counties in central Minnesota. He currently serves on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People and was recognized as one of nine “Catholics of the Year 2016” by Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly.
Bishop Kettler was involved in Scouting as a youth growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His Eagle Scout project was fixing up part of the basement of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls, where his troop met. Afterward, the space could be used for parish gatherings as well.
In addition to becoming an Eagle Scout, Bishop Kettler earned the Ad Altare Dei (“to the altar of God”) emblem.
Reflecting on Scouting in his youth, he said, “We talked a lot about citizenship and a relationship with God. I think it contributed to what I do now.”
He credits his Scouting involvement to his parents who were very involved in Scouting and in the parish, and a priest chaplain who was always present at troop meetings.
“We did a lot of camping,” he said, recalling memorable Scout trips. “We went to the Black Hills for a camp run by the Diocese of Rapid City. … I was about 11 or 12 years old. Our Scout troop was picked as having the outstanding cabin at that camp.
“My first experience of Blue Cloud Abbey, the Benedictine monastery up in the northern part of South Dakota, was through Scouting. We camped out there when it was really wet.”
Because of his camping experiences, he said he wasn’t surprised by the primitive situations he found in Alaska.
“In Alaska I was on the board of directors for Scouting for the northern part of Alaska,” Bishop Kettler said. “I wanted to continue to do things with Scouting.”
David Trehey, Scout executive with the Central Minnesota Council, and Jill Magelssen, council president, will present the award — a gold eagle suspended from a red, white and blue ribbon — and an engraved bronze plaque with a gold eagle at Parker Scout Camp in Nisswa, Minnesota.
Bishop Kettler is the third person in the Central Minnesota Council’s history to receive this honor. In 2015, Michael Hemesath, president of St. John’s University in Collegeville, received the award.
While Eagle Scout is the highest achievement in the youth program, the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award is given for significant service to the community or achievement in a person’s field, and can only be awarded after 25 years or more have passed since a young man received his Eagle Scout Award. A local council forwards its recommendation to the national selection committee, composed of past Distinguished Eagle Scouts.
Father Ben Kociemba, chaplain for the St. Cloud Diocese’s Catholic Committee on Scouting and the associate director of the diocesan Vocation Office, also is an Eagle Scout.
“As a young man I had the privilege of participating in the Boy Scout program. The program focuses on duty to God and country, duty to others and duty to self,” he said. “It is an invaluable program that can be used by families.”