In a year where the entire world took a pause, one outdoors organization has swelled. The Troops of St. George at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro has grown from three families to 15 as it finishes up its second year.
The Troops of St. George is a fraternal, nonprofit apostolate for priests, men, and young men looking for a life of adventure coupled with virtue, combining outdoors activities with spiritual activities. The organization was founded in Texas by Dr. Taylor Marshall, a Catholic author and professor, and has more than 50 troops across the country.
The troop at St. Rose of Lima was established in 2019 by three fathers, Chad MacIsaac, Ivan Ospina and Michael Arndt. They were looking for an outdoors community that was “authentically Catholic,” Arndt said.
They also chose the Troops of St. George because of the involvement of the fathers in the program, Arndt said. Other organizations focus on stepping away from the father and becoming more independent, he said. “With the Troops of St. George, fathers are expected to be involved every step of the way.”
Members of the Troops of St. George are split into junior and senior cadets. Junior cadets range from first through fifth grade, while senior cadets can be any age from sixth grade to seniors in high school.
The troops meet every Tuesday night for prayer, exercise and games. The cadets are also expected to work towards physical and spiritual requirements, such as running or reciting prayers. There are also patriotic and masculine requirements, like knowing how to fold a flag or use power tools.
The senior cadets have a camping or hiking outing once a month, with the junior cadets joining every other month.
While these outings are usually individual achievement driven for the senior cadets, Arndt said, the junior cadets can expect lots of quality time with father and son. “For juniors, the point of the outings is fathers and sons working together, setting up camp, and playing games,” he said. “We really feel like the most important element at that age is brotherhood and the relationships being developed between father and son and friends.”
There is no prior outdoor experience necessary to join the Troops of St. George, Arndt said. “There are no requirements, and thank goodness. None of us came from an outdoorsy background, so it was a huge learning curve for us. My camping gear has gone from nothing to four tents.”
For anyone looking to join the Troops of St George, or start their own troop, Arndt welcomes anyone who reaches out with questions. “We would love to see the Troops grow,” he said. “There are families that travel an hour here and back every week. It’s great to see people coming from so far away, but the distance can be problematic for some families.”
The national website for the troops of St. George – troopsofsaintgeorge.org – also has plenty of information and start-up materials.
Finally, Arndt said, anyone can join the Troop at St. Rose of Lima for a few meetings. “We believe in this organization to the depths of our souls, and we are willing to help anyone interested.”
For more information, email Arndt at Michael.Arndt@mtsu.edu.