Catholic Girl Scouts step up as young leaders at parishes

April 12, 2011

HOUSTON — Cookie sales are only the figurative coconut sprinkles on a Caramel deLite regarding the Christian and socially-conscious endeavors involving Catholic Girl Scouts in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts facilitates and supports the Religious Emblem program that promotes the “Catholicity” of the troops associated with Catholic schools and parishes.

According to their mission statement, the committee disseminates information on the religious recognition programs so that each Catholic girl in Girl Scouts will be aware of the opportunities to serve God as part of the Girl Scout Promise and to become a stronger member of her own faith.
The Religious Emblem program is not limited to just Girl Scouts, but also available for Campfire Girls and other programs.

“The Religious Emblem program allows the girls to not only learn about their Catholic faith but to put that faith in action through prayer and activities,” said Father Pat Garrett, the chaplain for Catholic Girl Scouts in the Archdiocese and the parochial vicar at St. Edward Church in Spring. “Through these activities the girls not only learn the teachings of the Church but can experience first-hand how these teachings are lived out in our daily lives.”

Father Garrett has seen the impact that Girl Scouts and the religious emblem programs have on parish ministries, like altar serving.

“Girl Scouts and these Religious Emblem programs instill in the girls a sense of the importance of family and community in their lives, and the important role they play in supporting the family and the community,” he said. “These girls have become real leaders in our Catholic schools and parishes.”

Debra Hiarker, the current chair of the Archdiocesan Committee on Girl Scouting, has also witnessed how the presence and actions of Catholic Girl Scouts help communities on the parish level — and beyond. One specific example involved her troop at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton hosting a safety awareness workshop at Catholic Charities to inform others about house fires, how to prepare for a hurricane and administer First Aid.

“The skills and the life lessons that they learned has helped each of them today with their spiritual growth … and dedication to the Catholic community and the Girl Scout program,” Hiarker said. “With their faith, they are able to guide their peers in the right direction. Many Girl Scout troops in the Archdiocese are designed to co-exist with multiple faiths, so over time, Catholic girls learn to appreciate their own faith while respecting others of different faiths.”

Megan Garney, a fourth-grade student at St. Thomas More School, received the I Live My Faith Award during the Mass of Recognition (“Good Teacher, What must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?”) at St. Thomas More Church, April 2. 

Garney has participated in the Gabriel Project, pitched in at the St. Thomas More food pantry, helped make heart pillows for cancer patients and feed the homeless; and volunteered at the Catholic Women’s Charity Guild Resale Shop.

“Some primary life lessons that I have learned as a Catholic Girl Scout are being spiritually honest and [to] treat people the way I would like to be treated,” Garney said. “I want to live by God’s teachings such as following the Ten Commandments.”

Girl Scouts have taught her about responsibility and awareness, too.

“Girl Scouts is partly about community — a community of others and a community of girls,” Garney said. “Being a Catholic is being involved in a parish and community as I serve God and others. As a Catholic Girl Scout, I am a role model for my peers by encouraging them to live a more positive life with God and others.”

Jalyn Gonzalez, a St. Edith Stein parishioner and a junior at Morton Ranch High School in Katy, was awarded the Spirit Alive Medal on April 2.
At her parish, she is active in Vacation Bible School, the youth group committee and parish retreats, among other responsibilities. Gonzalez always looks forward to camping trips with the Girl Scouts and said getting involved in the church community helped her endure difficult times in junior high.

“Being a Catholic Girl Scout taught me how to be a strong, honest and faithful leader,” she said. “I love getting to know other girls my age in Girl Scouts with the same faith.”

This year, she created a Bible study group.

“I wanted everyone to know about God’s love,” Gonzalez said. “I hope I am a role model to all my peers because of my faith and love for God.”

Sara Hansen, a fourth-grade student at St. Thomas More School, received the I Live My Faith Award. As a Girl Scout who enjoys making crafts, she has learned that “I should be thankful for what I have and what I can do.”

During her time in the Girl Scouts, Hansen has donated canned food for the homeless and needy, and has learned about recycling and taking care of the earth.

“It is good to donate and share,” she said. “The Lord likes it when we do that.”