Anthony Decina will receive the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout merit badge later this year for creating 130 pew dividers at St. Anthony of Padua Church in West Harrison.
“It was a very big project, a project personally I wish I didn’t have to do,” said the 16-year-old senior at Harrison High School. “I wish we didn’t have to wear masks to church and be socially distant, but I believe every time I walk into church that I made it a little bit better to feel safe during this pandemic and stay socially distant.”
Anthony’s father, Peter, was serving as a parish trustee when he attended a parish council meeting before his term ended. At the meeting, Father Thomas Byrnes, St. Anthony’s pastor, expressed the hope that something else could be done to mark off pews instead of the rope and orange tape that were being used during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anthony and his father began creating prototypes with different types of wood to see what would best match the pews. The final prototype of ash wood was selected, and Golden Oak stain was chosen for the wood.
Anthony, who is a member of Troop 1 Purchase, served as project foreman. He assisted about a dozen volunteers, including family members and fellow Scouts, to cut, sand and stain the pew dividers, which are adjustable and moveable. The project was finished in September, taking just over a month to complete.
When the pandemic is over and churches may be filled again for Masses, the railings will be stored, but some may be used to mark off sections of pews for church gatherings such as funerals and weddings.
“We’re very grateful for his work and dedication to our parish,” Father Byrnes said. “He’s a very faithful, kind young man. He’s eager to serve his parish. He showed you’re never too young or too old to make a difference.”
Anthony attends 8 a.m. Mass each Sunday with his father, mother, Anna, and younger brother, Christopher, 11, an altar server who has been unable to serve in that role since the pandemic began in March.
“I definitely smile when I walk into church. I’m definitely happy I did this,” said Anthony of his project. “Ever since I was born, I’ve been going to Mass there. I’ve received all my sacraments at this church. It’s like a home. It’s definitely a sacred place. It’s a good community to attend this church.
“I pray every night before I go to bed. It kind of helps me get through each day. Knowing that my family and friends are safe and protected from the pandemic or anything else is a blessing.”
Anthony said the skills he’s learned with the Boy Scouts would help him throughout his life.
“Being an Eagle Scout, it shows I’ve learned skills in Boy Scouts and I’m ready to apply those skills in the real world,” he said.
“I think they’re going to help me a lot especially since I want to become a police officer when I grow up. With these skills from Boy Scouts, the leadership skills and other skills will help me through college and when I become a police officer.”