Eagle Scout could be on his way to sainthood

Francis J. Parater was one of just 96 young men who became an Eagle Scout in 1915. The feat was so rare that Boys’ Life magazine published the names of all new Eagle Scouts in its pages.

Nearly a century after Parater’s death, leaders in the Catholic church want to honor Parater’s life with an even rarer honor: sainthood.

Parater died of rheumatic fever in 1920 in Rome; he was just 22. But in that short life he sought perfection as a student, Scout and seminarian. Just before he died, Parater wrote a letter to his Scout troop back home. He told them that, when their time came, he’d warmly welcome them to “the campfire of eternal life.”

In 2001, church leaders began the canonization process for Parater — formally initiating the steps toward sainthood. The process can take many years.

Born to be a Scout

Frank Parater was born Oct. 10, 1897, in Richmond, Va.

As a teenager, Parater became active in Troop 40 — part of what was then the Richmond Council and is now the Heart of Virginia Council.

He took on multiple leadership roles with the troop and built a reputation as a Scout with strong ideals and sound judgment. Parater was just as home outdoors — camping, hiking and building fires — as he was studying scripture inside a church.

He became an Eagle Scout some time in 1915. Why don’t we know the exact date? Records from 1912 to 1916 list the year only. We do know that Parater’s Eagle Scout status is confirmed in the November 1915 issue of Boys’ Life:

By the end of 1915, a mere 338 individuals had received their Eagle medal in BSA history.

In 2009, the 2 millionth Eagle Scout medal was awarded.

A friend of BL

Parater was one of BL‘s earliest fans. He wrote frequent letters to Boys’ Life, sharing snapshots and stories with the magazine’s editors.

His name was published in at least seven different issues of BL, including the February 1914 issue where he expressed his desire to become pen pals with a fellow Scout. The magazine called this mail-exchange service “Lonesome Corner.”

By October 1914, Parater had been corresponding with at least one Scout: Harry Ledin of Sweden.

But Parater didn’t just correspond with fellow Scouts. Once, he wrote to a Boys’ Life columnist known as Mr. Cave Dweller. This is from the January 1915 issue:

Studying for priesthood, staffing summer camp

In 1917, Parater was called to the priesthood and entered the Belmont Abbey Seminary College in North Carolina. He attended daily Mass and weekly confession. His personal rule for living was “the Sacred Heart never fails those that love Him.”

While studying for the priesthood, Parater remained active in Scouting. He even served as camp director one summer.

“The leaders of the Scouts saw such virtue and ideals in Frank that they wanted him to serve as a summer camp director supervising those who were his seniors,” according to a story in this Seminarian Handbook.

A move to Rome and a farewell letter

In 1919, Parater was sent to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Three months after arriving, Parater contracted rheumatism that developed into rheumatic fever. He died Feb. 7, 1920.

After he died, a letter was found in his room that was addressed to his fellow Boy Scouts back in Virginia:

Dear Old Scouts:

You may never see this letter, but if you do, it is to tell you that God has granted me the greatest desire of my life — to die for love of Him and of my fellow man. Never fear death — it is the most beautiful thing in life, for it is the great portal to the real life. Ever since I was a little fellow I have wanted to be like the martyrs of old, and give my life to God.

I have loved each of you. … Now that God has called me to Himself, don’t think that I shall forget you; nor shall I leave you – but will be much nearer to you than I could ever be in this life.

And now, old Scouts, I must say ‘so long for a time.’ But occasionally think of your old friend and camp director, and when the time comes for you to hit the trail for home, I’ll promise to be near and to welcome you to the campfire of eternal life. God’s blessing be with you all.


Your friend,

Francis Parater

Story idea via John Duncan


  1. That’s interesting, but the Catholic church requires two verified miracles to recognize someone as a saint. What’re this fellow’s miracles?

    • Canonization in the Catholic church is typically a 3-step process. First the persons name is submitted. This starts an investigation in the person’s life. At this time a “champion” for that persons cause is assigned and they not only assist with gathering information for the investigation but also starts asking for people to pray for miracles in that persons name. (See the image of the “prayer” card found at the enf of the article. Typically after the first verified miracle occurs, the person is advanced to “Blessed”. After the second verified miracle the person could then be declared a saint. Since Frank Parater has not yet been declared a saint the miracles most like have not occurred or they have not been verified.

    • The card says he’s a “Servant of God.” The next step is to be declared “Venerable,” then a “Beatus” (Latin for Blessed), and finally Saint.

    • I don’t believe there have been any miracles attributed him yet. He’s only at the first stage of the process. It might time a 100 years before he’s ever declared a saint.

  2. I always enjoy reading the texts from older newspapers and magazines to see how words have changed meanings over the years. I am speaking specifically about the newspaper article concerning the attainment of Silver Eagle as “the highest honor given for WINNING Merit Badges.” There is also no mention of Star or Life ranks, only going from 1st Class to Silver Eagle. Was not aware of that difference in the early days of Scouting.

    • Originally there were only 3 ranks: Tenderfoot, 2nd Class & 1st Class. Life, Star, & Eagle were all “degrees” of 1st Class. Yes, Star was higher than Life originally. There is a reprint of the 1911 (?) Handbook that has been republished. I found mine at Cabellas, but they are available elsewhere. Very interesting reading.

      • From my own observation, environmentalists today would never allow Scouts to complete some of the rank requirements from even my dad’s 1927 handbook: felling trees and building a lean-to from the tree limbs and boughs.

        Then again, when I was growing up, Scouts were never environmentalists, they were conservationists; the big difference being that conservationists work with, enjoy, live within, and act to personally protect nature and the environment–environmentalists tend to worship nature in the abstract; typically gaining most of their knowledge and insights about nature from the Discovery Chanel or a favored political science professor.

    • Parater dedicated his life for the conversion of Virginians to the Catholic Church. His was a wonderful example for boys and Boy Scouts. God bless you, Frank Parater, please pray for our sons.

    • A life well lived, even though ended early.
      Every person who ends up in heaven is a “saint” {which is the teaching of most Christian denominations, with “saint” as a word meaning “holy”}, and the Catholic Church (western & Eastern Orthodox) of going to the additional step of publicly declaring on earth for some outstanding examples after their death to be “saints”.

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