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Catholic Girl Scouting returns to archdiocese

Karen Mathews fondly remembers when her daughter Sarah learned about the Blessed Mother’s role in the Catholic faith as she worked to earn the beautiful “Mary” medal as a Girl Scout.

She believes researching for Catholic medals as a scout helped deepen her daughter’s faith and believes it can do the same for others.That’s why she agreed to chair – for a year – the new  Catholic Committee on Girl Scouting being revived in the archdiocese after a seven-year hiatus. St. Louis Cathedral Deacon Richard Brady, is the chaplain.
“This meeting is a milestone of the journey in the archdiocese to reinvigorate the Catholic side of Girl Scouting,” John Smestad, director of the CYO/Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, said at an Oct. 20 meeting held at St. Rita of Harahan. 
The new committee will promote Catholic religious awards available through  scouting, Smestad said.

The push for the Catholic aspect of girl scouting surfaced approximately 1 1/2 years ago when Archbishop Gregory Aymond asked the CYO office to be his liaison to both the Catholic Committee on Boy Scouting and the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouting. Smestad said the archbishop sees scouting as a wonderful extension of youth ministry – another avenue by which the church can reach boys and girls. With the CYO overseeing the committee, valuable faith resources would be at the fingertips of leaders.
While the Catholic Committee on Boy Scouting had continued after Katrina, the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouting had lost its long-time chairwoman Barbara Wick and became dormant.
With virtually a blank slate, Smestad first contacted several former leaders to learn a bit of the history. To reconstitute the committee, those who agreed to become involved began rewriting the bylaws and compiling an active list of Girl Scout troops at Catholic church parishes.
 Many troop leaders – even those at non-Catholic sites – attended the Oct. 20 meeting to find out what Catholic awards were available to Catholic girl scouts.

Mathews highlighted the main awards from Brownie to senior level: “Family of God”;  “I Live My Faith”; “Mary, The First Disciple”; and “The Spirit Alive.” Sister of Mount Carmel Mary Ellen Wheelahan also was on hand to provide safe environment training for troop leaders.
“I think Girl Scouting encourages girls to step forward and be their own person,” Mathews said. “Each one of these Catholic medal programs encourages the girls to have a degree of understanding of faith. I think when a young girl earns this award, it serves as a benchmark on her journey.”
 Mathews believes her daughter Sarah, now 21, is active in her faith today as an administrative counselor at Camp Abbey due to the scout’s faith preparation.
“It is a set of values that we are asking the girls to adopt on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Girl Scouts,” Mathews said.
Mathews said the committee is working on some type of a Catholic recognition for the Daisy level as well as trying to organize a retreat at Camp Abbey and bringing back a pilgrimage.
“I’d like your groups to help us bring back this program,” Mathews told troop leaders. “It has been a long, well-thought-out endeavor.”
Faith strengthened
Gloria St. Pierre, who has been involved with Girl Scouting on various levels since the mid-1950s, said she remembered getting together with other women to establish a local “ancilla domini” Catholic award for older Girl Scouts. She said the Catholic awards complement the catechism that Catholic youth learn. Now the coordinator of the Cadettes, seniors and ambassadors on the Catholic Committee, St. Pierre specifically mentioned how the Spirit Alive award is earned about the same time youth are learning about the Holy Spirit during confirmation preparation.
Mathews said the committee has planned a Court of Honor and award review on March 24 at St. Christopher in Metairie. Girl Scouts working on Catholic awards can present their booklets for review on this date. Those who complete the activities for individual Catholic awards will be recognized at an awards ceremony planned April 28 at St. Louis Cathedral. Several Girl Scouts had received Catholic awards at the archdiocesan Scout Mass held May 6, 2012, for the first time since 2005.
“I hope over the next several years this will grow until the cathedral is full,” Smestad said. “Archbishop Aymond hoped that most, if not all of the troops, would have girls working on one, if not more, Catholic awards.”
The CYO office is working to establish a web link for Catholic Girl Scouting with downloadable documents. For details on the Catholic awards for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 836-0551, ext. 3223.
            Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .