Eagle Scout project is really down to earth

The Rev. Al Masluk, pas­tor at St. Martha Cath­ol­ic Church, was look­ing for a way to beau­ti­fy a large patch of grass out­side the chapel.

At the same time, pa­rish­ion­er John Press was look­ing for a mean­ing­ful Eagle Scout pro­ject.

The two got to­geth­er earli­er this year and agreed that a pray­er garden would look good in that space.

Press went to work, re­ceiv­ing plenty of help along the way, and com­pleted the pro­ject to Masluk’s sat­is­fac­tion and de­light.

On a Sunday morn­ing earli­er this month, the garden was ded­ic­ated after the 8 a.m. Mass. Press led the crowd in the Pledge of Al­le­gi­ance, and all joined in singing God Bless Amer­ica. Masluk offered pray­ers and blessed the garden.

Press de­flec­ted the praise he re­ceived from pa­rish­ion­ers and oth­ers who got their first of­fi­cial look at the garden.

“I’m really happy with it, but I had a lot of help,” he said. “A lot of Eagle Scout pro­jects help people and have mean­ing.”

Press, 18, who lives on Mor­rell Av­en­ue, has been a mem­ber of Boy Scout Troop 460 for eight years. The troop is based at Our Lady of Cal­vary Church.

Press gradu­ated from St. Martha Ele­ment­ary School and Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School, where he was vice pres­id­ent of the Com­munity Ser­vice Corps. He at­tends Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia’s North­east Re­gion­al Cen­ter.

The garden fea­tures a short walk­ing path, flowers, mulch, Amer­ic­an flags, benches, a plaque and a statue of St. Mi­chael the Archangel. Ex­ter­i­or church lights shine on the garden at night.

The benches are ded­ic­ated to the memor­ies of Debbie Max­well, a former Troop 460 scout­mas­ter, and Joseph Searles, a fam­ily friend and former Eagle Scout.

The plaque reads, “Ded­ic­ated to All Po­lice & Fire­men Past, Present & Fu­ture & Both Shields.”

St. Mi­chael the Archangel is con­sidered the pat­ron saint of the mil­it­ary, po­lice of­ficers and fire­fight­ers.

John McNesby, pres­id­ent of Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5, at­ten­ded the ce­re­mony.

Press ex­plained that the garden hon­ors the sac­ri­fices of po­lice of­ficers, fire­fight­ers and mem­bers of the armed forces who’ve died in the line of duty, but he wanted to make sure the shrine re­cog­nized act­ive per­son­nel.

“I don’t think we fo­cus enough on the people who are out there today,” he said.

Press was joined at the ce­re­mony by his par­ents, John and Maur­een, young­er broth­er Patrick, his grand­fath­er, an aunt and two cous­ins. He raised money for the pro­ject by selling soft pret­zels after Mass. He thanks the Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory store at Academy and By­berry roads for giv­ing him a big dis­count.

The young man also is grate­ful for the sup­port of Reen’s Deli, the Mil­le­voi Broth­ers auto cen­ter at Frank­ford and Mor­rell av­en­ues, St. Martha pa­rish­ion­ers and his fel­low Troop 460 Scouts.

Press ex­pects to of­fi­cially be­come an Eagle Scout at a Court of Hon­or ce­re­mony with­in the next two months, once he sub­mits the re­quired pa­per­work and ap­pears in front of a re­view board.

“Scout­ing has been good for me. I’ve be­come a lead­er through Scout­ing,” he said.

Masluk is happy with the way the garden looks and cred­its Press with do­ing a good job.

“I wanted something nicer, a peace­ful place where people could get their thoughts to­geth­er,” he said. “It’s John’s own design and col­or scheme, and he main­tains it. He did a great job.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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