Archdiocese encourages support of faith-based scouting programs

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is encouraging parishes to support faith-based organizations for girls, including Little Flowers Girls' Club and American Heritage Girls.

"From Baptism, our parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith. And at this tender age, we want to make sure that they're being influenced in a positive way regarding the faith," said Auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice.

As a result, the archdiocese will be asking pastors in the years to come to welcome these faith-based groups into their parishes, said Bishop Rice.

Father Brian Fischer, executive director of the archdiocesan Catholic Youth Apostolate, which oversees the Office of Catholic Scouting Ministry, noted that "we are called to live the new evangelization. In doing so we need to saturate ourselves in the joy, the truth and the peace of the Gospel -- so much more so for the youth entrusted to our care during their most formative time in their lives. That is why we are so excited to promote these faith-based organizations, Little Flowers and American Heritage Girls, that will aid parents and parishes in growing disciples."

Little Flowers Girls' Club was founded as a Catholic organization for girls ages 5 and older to teach virtues through Scripture, the saints and Catechism of the Catholic Church. Programming is based on "The Catholic Girls' Guide," published in 1906 by Father F.X. Lasance, and the spirituality of St. Therese, the Little Flower of Lisieux. There are three known clubs in the archdiocese: the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, Epiphany Parish in south St. Louis and Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie.

American Heritage Girls is a Christian organization founded in 1995 by a group of parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, who were seeking a wholesome program for their daughters. The program is open to girls ages 5-18 and its mission is "building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country."

Nationally, the organization has 33,000 members and about 730 troops in 48 states. The Catholic Church is the fastest-growing denomination, and last fall, the American Heritage Girls formed a National Catholic Committee to support growth and spiritual development within its Catholic troops. Locally, St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville and St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood have AHG troops.

The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Scouting Ministry serves to enhance girls' experiences in these organizations through its faith-formation programs, which are available to any youth, including those with no affiliation with scouting, said Father Fischer. The office does not oversee individual scouting groups or scouts, he added. Girl Scouts also participate in the faith-formation programs, although Girls Scouts of the USA is not specifically a faith-based program.

"Our purpose is to insert faith-formation programs into these (faith-based) organizations," Father Fischer explained. "We want to partner with them to support their growth. They then become an extension of our office as a part of what they already do with their programs."

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