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History of Catholic Scouting

The Jesuit priest and Lord Baden-Powell: Origins of Catholic Scouting

The man who founded Catholic Scouts was a Jesuit priest.

Born in Lille in 1882, Jacques Sevin entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1900, after completing his English studies at Catholic University in Lille.  During his years studying theology leading up to his ordination as a priest, Jacques became fascinated by the Scouting Movement, which had been founded by Lt Gen Robert Baden-Powell in Britain in 1907.  Two articles in the Jesuit periodical Etudes were critical of Scouting, however, so in mid-1913, Jacques was asked by his superiors to investigate the movement.  He attended a scout rally in London on 20 September 1913, where he met Baden-Powell himself.  They shared the same sense of humor, and love of music, art and drama, and Baden-Powell said that no one turned his thoughts into reality better than Jacques.

Jacques was particularly impressed by the educational dimension of Scouting, and after meeting Baden-Powell wrote Scouting, a documentary study and applications.  He attended one of the training courses at Gilwell Park, Chingford, North East London, and started adapting them for the French situation.  Religious circles were still disparaging of Scouting, but Jacques persevered until, in 1920, he was able to officially establish Catholic Scouts - 'Scouts de France'.  It was an immediate success among young French people, focusing initially on qualities such as responsibility and dedication, on education and the natural world.  But Jacques also ensured a spiritual dimension to it, teaching millions of Catholic Scouts the prayer of the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), St Ignatius of Loyola, which they would recite together:

'Lord Jesus, teach us to be generous,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and to ask for no reward
save that of knowing that we do your holy will.  Amen.'

Fr Jacques Sevin SJ died on 19 July 1951.  His cause for beatification is currently being considered in Rome.