Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Girl Scout Programs in the Diocese Continue Traditions of Faith, Service and Leadership

For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts USA has worked to build courage, confidence and character in girls across America. Here in the Diocese of Harrisburg, that tradition continues with the hard work of Scout leaders who infuse Scouting with Catholic faith for a truly well-rounded experience.

“Scouting gives the girls opportunities to do new things they’ve never done before,” said Donna Kelly, chair of the Diocesan Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire. “A lot of them may never have the chance to go camping, or to go on a pilgrimage to a shrine, or things like that. So, we offer them opportunities to travel, to learn new skills, to go to places they haven’t been, to allow them to interact with other girls, and bring them out of their comfort zone or school cliques. It gives them an opportunity to meet new people and opens them up to newer experiences.”

The Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting supports Boy Scouts, while the Diocesan Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire supports Girl Scouts. Annually, the scouts join together for the Scout Mass with the bishop to honor their contributions and present the religious emblems they’ve earned. This year’s Mass was celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Harrisburg, on March 17 at St. Catherine Labouré Church in Harrisburg.

Kelly explained how Girl Scouts USA helps to instill faith-based lessons for girls, with multi-faceted workshops where they learn about saints or women in scripture, the sacraments, and more. One workshop involved the story of Naomi and Ruth; Ruth was married to Naomi’s son. When he died, Ruth refused to abandon Naomi, even though the two were starving and had no food. They traveled together to Judah, where Ruth gathered the leftovers from the harvest
on the property of the wealthy Boaz – who would become Ruth’s second husband, with Naomi’s blessing. The story is one of devotion, trust and compassion.

“We made bread and had a bread-tasting…and made special crafts with wheat, and things like that,” Kelly recalled. “That was one of the big things in their story, so we try to incorporate all of that.”

The troops have also assisted with the Diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where the Girl Scouts not only were able to learn and grow in their own faith, they were able to work and contribute to the overall experience.

“We helped organize a scavenger hunt for the children to do, as well as acted as a welcoming committee,” Kelly said. “We try to get as active with Diocesan events as often as we can, and try to promote the education of the faith for the girls, because part of our Girl Scout law is ‘duty to God,’ and this is where we try to reach out and help them maintain that duty to God in their lives.”

Earning religious emblems can be a long process; it can take several months to complete, and there are multiple levels of requirements – such as prayer, fulfilling a service project, and reading, though the requirements are kept age-appropriate. Workshops are open to all ages, which means girls who participate will be interacting with people of different ages, too.

Kelly explained that another skill they try to promote within Girl Scouts is leadership. “We have a lot of the older girls teaching younger girls, and even in our workshops, we have the older girls helping the younger girls through the crafts and the projects, which helps them develop their leadership skills,” she said. “A lot of them are doing event planning, where regular girls may not be involved in that, so they wouldn’t know how to plan an event, or accommodate for people with certain requirements, or what’s needed for food requirements or bathroom facilities – it allows them to take into account or consideration things they may not ordinarily know. We can have up to 60 girls at an event, so they’re learning crowd control and leadership skills extended from the regular Girl Scouts. And we do it all in a more Catholic-friendly atmosphere.”

Registration for Scouting begins at the beginning of each school year.

“We’re here; we’re looking for girls, for committee members to help, or to help plan workshops,” Kelly said. “The more people who are involved contribute to us creating a better workshop. It just helps give us a more robust program.”

The Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and the Diocesan Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire supports scouts and Scout leaders. Activities include trainings for leaders, retreats for Boy Scouts, workshops for Girl Scouts, and emblems and recognitions for youth and adults. Catholic Scouting is a program of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Visit this link for more information.

(Casandra Chesser is a freelance reporter for The Catholic Witness.)

(Mass photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness; service project photos courtesy of the Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire.)

By Casandra Chesser, The Catholic Witness

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