March is Women’s History Month, and so it seems like a great time to take a look at the different formation and service clubs, organizations, and programs available to young women through the Catholic Church.
Young women today have many opportunities to be formed and catechized at this critical time in their lives – a time when they need to learn about their very real and very necessary “feminine genius.” This is a phrase coined by the late, great, Pope Saint John Paul II.
With the on-going controversy surrounding the Girl Scouts of America and their unfortunate association with organizations that have missions contrary to the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality, and the family, now is a great time to see what else is available for girls and young women!
Read more about the Girls Scouts and their associations here.
1. Up for the Challenge?
Challenge is designed for girls in the 5th through 12th grades. According to the website, Challenge, and its brother program, Conquest, are “Catholic Youth Ministry programs for girls and boys in 5th – 12th grade to grow in knowledge of their Catholic faith, friendship with Christ, and make a difference and positive impact on their families, friends and in the world around them.”
Challenge’s website offers a free booklet for more information and includes helpful info on how to start a group at your parish. The website boasts that they are “in over 250 parishes & schools with over 6,500 youth every week, led by 300 adult leaders and 700 teen leaders. Offering over 45 summer camps with 2,000 campers every year.”
What makes this Youth Ministry Program unique is that is provides a full curriculum, broken up into three different age brackets and including two years of materials so that it is not repetitive as a young girl progresses through the program as she grows. This impressive curriculum includes over 180 weekly games and activities, 30 books, and 36 service projects. An appealing aspect of this program is that it uses questions and comments from teenagers themselves, to help build content, is based upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church and is constantly being updated so it is both relevant and fresh (something that is especially important in this age of nonstop communication and technology!).
An easy to navigate website and downloadable materials make this appealing for inexperienced or volunteer Youth Leaders. Visit the Challenge website to learn more.
2. Embracing our American Heritage
Perhaps the most widely known of the direct alternatives to The Girl Scouts of America is the American Heritage Girls club. While not Catholic in identity, American Heritage Girls operates within a Parish much like the Girls Scouts, with each Parish hosting its own Troop and adapting it to fit in with the Catholic faith.
According to the American Heritage Girls, “American Heritage Girls is the premier national character development organization for girls ages 5 to 18 that embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement.” Started by Patti Garibay after she became disenchanted with how the Girl Scouts were handling the issue of Faith within their organization, American Heritage Girls (AHG) grew organically in Patti’s local community and “continued to grow with the help and support of a nationwide network of parents who share their goal of building women of integrity out of the little girls of today.
By the grace of God, tens of thousands have been reached and served by AHG ministry. Today, as AHG gratefully celebrates over 20 years of God’s blessings, the need for Christ-centered programs is stronger than ever.” Visit the American Heritage Girls website to learn more.
3. Learning to live as a Young Woman of Grace
Young Women of Grace is not a group or a club, rather it is a study program targeted for girls ages 13 and older, to teach them “what it means to be a daughter of God, how to discern purpose and mission in the world and to find true fulfillment.” The program is adapted from the increasingly popular Women of Grace study program, and it aims to present the Truths of the faith through print media, a workbook, stories and testimonials.
The format of the study program seeks to help young women form lasting friendships based on the faith and growth in understanding as they learn about the saints, modern day women living their faith, and how Catholic teaching applies to their every day lives.
The website is easy to navigate and has downloadable features and even a webinar training for program facilitators, making it both easy and accessible to parishes and women’s groups who want to offer something to young women. Visit the Young Women of Grace website to learn more.
4. Speaking to Sparrows
Taking a different approach to forming women, Speaking to Sparrows is a documentary film about women finding courage to confront the uncomfortable. The film brings to light the issues facing women in today’s world and creates space for the difficult conversations. It is these conversations that are a light in the darkness, and can lead to sisterhood, belonging and healing.”
The film can be viewed in a large venue (movie theater, parish hall, gymnasium etc) with the purchase of a license and viewing kit, which includes resources and materials to facilitate the discussions and ongoing formation that the film is intended to kickstart. Private viewings and home viewings are also an option, and are made possible via download or DVD purchase. Materials for small groups and private group discussion are available with this option.
This is a novel and “new media” approach to some of the age – old questions faced by every woman regardless of age, but with a modern day twist that also seeks to confront difficulties and cultural hurdles that are specific to the 21st century. According to the Website, “it is incredibly powerful for women to know that they are not alone, and that their worth is determined by much more than the size of their waist or their relationship status. Speaking to Sparrows fearlessly confronts issues such as body image, the pressure to be perfect and successful, dating, isolation, father wounds, abuse, eating disorders, lust and pornography…”
A trailer for Speaking to Sparrows can be viewed here. To ease the minds of those who fear the content may not be exactly what was expected, there is a link that is emailed upon the purchase of a license that gives the purchaser 48 hours to preview the film and receive a refund if they are not satisfied that it would suit their group or venue. Visit the Speaking to Sparrows website for more information and to learn how to host a viewing.
5. Learning from the Little Flower
“Little Flowers Girls’ Club® is a Catholic club for girls ages 5 and up that teaches virtues through scripture, saints’ biographies and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Based on the 1906 Catholic classic ‘The Catholic Girls’ Guide’ by Fr. F.X. Lasance, and the spirituality of St. Thérése, the Little Flower of Liseux, this beautiful, authentically Catholic program, has delighted and instilled in our girls a love of our Catholic Faith for over 25 years.”
These clubs are loosely based on the scouting model and participants earn badges and advance through four years of study. Each year, referred to as a “Wreath” focuses on a different virtues. Little Flower Girls’ Clubs are meant to be local and are not required to pay dues or have allegiance to a national or central organization. Boasting that it is a “fun, flexible, faith filled club for girls,” Little Flower Girls’ Clubs are popping up all over the country, made easy by the website and the downloadable Step by Step guide for starting a club. Leader bundles can be ordered online and contain all the materials needed to start and run a Little Flower Girls Club.
Little Flower Girls Clubs seem to be geared for younger girls and seem to be an increasingly popular alternative to Daisies and Brownies (the Girl Scouts of America clubs for younger girls). Visit the Little Flower Girl’s Club website for more information.
With so many options available for girls and young women, it seems as if there has never been a better time to be a young woman in the Church, beginning to discover her genius!