On 22-24 November 2019, twenty-eight chiefs from the Federation of North-American Explorers (FNE) gathered an hour southeast of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. These senior leaders represented fourteen FNE groups from two Canadian provinces and nine US states. Bruno Borde, Federal Commissioner of UIGSE, and Jean-Luc Angélis, UIGSE Assistant to the Federal Commissioner for English-speaking Countries, were also in attendance, to offer their leadership and support. Why? The FNE was holding their first Assembly! As a young, thriving, and growing Association, it was time for us to reflect on our history, where we are today, and where we want to go in the future.
The history of the FNE started with its founding on 10 August 1999 with only ten members, and was first named The Association des Éclaireurs Baden-Powell (AEBP). Sadly, the AEBP terminated its union with FSE in 2007 which is when FNE founder Paul Ritchi advocated for a new FSE Association. Paul Ritchi’s vision was for a united North America that would remain in union with our older brother and parent movement, the FSE. This request was granted, and twelve years later, on 5 November 2011, the first group in the United States of America was established.
Due to legal reasons, we use the term “Explorers” in North America to describe our movement, a name that encompasses the same meaning as “scout” or “guide”. Explorers search and discover God in all creation. We explore the image of God in our fellow human and neighbour. We look for Him in the great outdoors. We find him in our Catholic faith that we have inherited primarily from Europe. And it is through this growth and exploration that our Lord reveals who we are as children of God.
At our First Assembly, we realized that we had overcome many challenges already, including legal struggles, liability insurance issues, and local group challenges. Although we continue to face new obstacles, FNE is growing, with new families joining every year and new groups sprouting up in Canada and the USA. It is a critical time right now, for us to be better organized so that we can prepare for and embrace the future.
Federal Commissioner Borde encouraged FNE, and reminded us, “We [UIGSE] are a movement, which means that we are all moving together.” Our FNE association proudly belongs to the UIGSE family. Mr. Borde also said, “You may feel small but you belong to a big brotherhood.” The bond that we have with our European scout brothers and sisters is essential, empowering, and inspirational.
We look to our European brothers and sisters with great hope and honour. Sometimes, we look with trembling and intimidation since we are their offspring and their history is so deep. We are facing the pains of growth and an unknown future. The Federal Commissioner reminded us to not be afraid: “Fear can prevent growth. Don’t be afraid of growth. We need to grow, to explore, to expand.” Through the affection and goodwill of Mr. Borde and Mr. Angélis, we find great strength under the wings of the UIGSE in Christ, like a child in the arms of her mother. We rely on our European counterparts most especially for pedagogical training, but also for smaller things such as assistance in translating booklets and music.
So, what is the future of FNE? What will our Association look like next year, in five years, in fifty years? We are preparing for more growth as we observe non-UIGSE scouting groups going through many changes, and watch new reactionary efforts come and go. Our commissioner and board leadership positions are nearly filled, including some who were elected at our Assembly. Finally, our Group Chiefs and Deputies are focusing their efforts on true scouting pedagogy while nurturing a sense of family. Sandy Polocz, General Commissioner for the Girls, said it well: “As you learn more, you want more.” Our chiefs and members are hungry for scouting. We want America to have this European scouting movement blow through our land and rest upon us. Thanks be to God for his many blessings for and protection of our FNE movement.