NEW CANAAN — For more than 50 years, there was a Scouts BSA Troop 45 at St. Aloysius Parish until it ended in the mid-1980s. Then, four years ago, Monsignor Robert Kinnally and Stephen V. Prostor worked together to bring it back because of the importance of Catholic Scouting.
Their efforts were well-rewarded. Today, Scouting is flourishing at St. Aloysius, and the newly revived troop recently honored its first Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank a scout can achieve. Matthew Fleming of Stamford, who is Troop 45’s Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and former Senior Patrol Leader, received his Eagle Scout award at the Ceremony of Honor on February 28.
The occasion revived a tradition that had been a hallmark of Troop 45 for decades, when boys from New Canaan and surrounding towns earned their Eagle, according to Prostor, who is the Committee Chair of Scouts BSA Troop 45.
Prostor praised Fleming, who plans to enlist in the Air Force, and said, “Matthew guided and encouraged and mentored our younger scouts. He set a great example by motivating them to achieve Eagle. The time he took and the patience he had working with them on their projects demonstrated the kind of leadership Eagle Scouts should exhibit. And we have benefitted tremendously by having him in the troop.”
Almost a year-and-a-half ago, Matthew and Ryan Jouanno joined the New Canaan troop after Troop 5 in Stamford ended. They were both Life Scouts — which is one step away from Eagle — and they needed a new troop.
Matthew was a high school senior in Stamford, and Ryan was an 11th-grader in Norwalk. They were accompanied by adult leader Alan Gerard, who had been Troop 5’s Committee Chair and Matthew’s Eagle adviser.
Matthew’s mother Robyn Fleming told News 12 that they had searched for a new troop and decided “This is the troop for us….I’m very excited and very proud of him. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Matthew said “he had a little dream” when he was 11 and read about the Eagle rank in the manual. He completed his Eagle project by cleaning and repairing the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Stamford.
“Matthew and Ryan both needed an active troop, and we needed older scouts to serve as an example to the younger members,” Prostor said. “Matthew has had a great influence on our younger scouts, and with his inspiration, we now have four of our 13 scouts who have achieved the rank of Star, which is two steps away from Eagle,” Prostor said.
He explained that only four percent of all scouts nationally earn the rank of Eagle, and they are in exclusive company.
“His example has dramatically inspired our younger scouts to do the work to get to Eagle,” Prostor said. “And that group of scouts will be an inspiration for the younger ones who are leaving Cub Scouts. Matthew’s legacy and the effect he has had on the troop is very positive. As an adult volunteer, there is no way I can thank him enough because he has had a tremendous impact on the program at St. Aloysius.”
Prostor, who grew up in Cleveland, was never a scout but has been an active adult volunteer in the New Canaan programs for the past seven years, ever since his son Aidan joined the Cub Scouts in first grade. Now, he is a 13-year-old eighth-grader and the Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 45.
“I was so impressed with the positive impact the program has on these kids,” he said. “It will be part of my life forever. We have a bishop and a diocese that is supportive and people who have had good experiences with Scouting.”
Assisting him in Troop 45 are Scoutmaster Dr. Keith Duggar, who is an Eagle Scout, and Robert Mantilia, the Chartered Organization Rep, who serves as the liaison between the parish and Scouting. Monsignor Kinnally, pastor of St. Aloysius and Vicar General of the Diocese of Bridgeport, who previously served as chaplain for the scouting program, also achieved the rank of Eagle.
While Scouting units are open to kids of all faiths, Prostor stressed the importance of Catholic Scouting, which is an activity like other parish groups but also a parish ministry.
“You don’t have to be Catholic, but there are specific programs for practicing Catholics,” he said. “Monsignor Rob and I both felt that Scouting can play a role in between the religious education of our younger youth on the path toward Confirmation and the teen Emmaus programs, which the parish offers for high school students. It provides something different to the parish community and introduces them to the values that Scouting espouses.”
He pointed out that the programs give young people an appreciation of nature and a reverence for God, who created the natural world.
“Scouting teaches life skills and values that are important and should be instilled in kids,” Prostor said. “It helps connect the dots between what they get at school and in sports and their religious education. He helps kids become productive adults and real citizens in the parish community and the broader world.”
St. Aloysius is “a family pack” for boys and girls. Cub Scouts extend from K-to-fifth grade, and later, when they enter the scouts, they join either a boys or girls troop. The Cub Scouts are parent-led. In BSA Scouts, adults support the older, more mature scouts to lead the younger ones. In fall 2019, the parish began a new Cub Scout Pack, which now has 30 members, and in spring 2020, it restarted Troop 45, which has 15 active scouts.
By Joe Pisani