Twenty-two girls from Mary, Mother of the Church parish, East New York, took their oath as American Heritage Girls on Nov. 8.
During Mass, in the presence of God, their families and the parish community, they promised to “love God, cherish my family, honor my country and serve in my community.”
One week later, these girls were back in their parish school building fulfilling their oath. They used cardboard, scissors, crayons and markers to make Thanksgiving cards for those who would be coming to the parish for a Thanksgiving lunch.
“For the people who don’t really have a Thanksgiving, it’s a way to let them know that there are people who care for them and want to make them smile,” said 14-year-old Theresa Ramos, a patriot for the American Heritage Girls.
She said the activity also served as an evangelization tool to help those who receive cards realize that they are loved, not only by those who made the cards but also by God.
Seven-year-old Kay Lee Angelique Guzman said she had fun doing the activity and thought it was very important to send messages of support to those who may not always hear them.
“Sometimes they might not think that they are loved – everyone should [feel] loved,” she said.
Kay Lee’s mother, Jasmin Guzman, who is also the troop co-coordinator, said she wanted to enroll her daughter in the group because it is Christ-centered. She said she thought the Girl Scouts were too focused on fund-raising and selling cookies. She hopes that with the American Heritage Girls, her daughter will be able to grow in the values she tries to teach her at home.
It was Oretha Hunter, now charter representative, who brought the idea of starting a chapter at Mary, Mother of the Church.
Having taught catechism at the parish for 25 years and having grown up in the neighborhood, Hunter said she felt there was a need for a girls’ group at the parish.
“I felt that we have to give back to our young ladies the idea that it’s okay to be a young lady,” she said, and provide them with opportunities for age-appropriate activities.
Hunter said she was struck by the word “integrity” in the American Heritage Girls’ mission statement. She wanted to start the group – the only chapter of the American Heritage Girls in the five boroughs – because she wanted to give girls the opportunity to have fun without technology and to be more engaged in the physical world.
“Technology is great in its own place, but we have to teach girls that there is a whole world around them,” she said. “We are teaching them how to have fun, how to be part of a community and how to love God and not be ashamed of it.”
She presented her idea to Mother Mary of the Angelus, S.S.V.M., parish religious education director, and asked her to serve as the group’s chaplain. Mother Angelus accepted the proposal and is happy with the initial turnout.
Mother Angelus also said that she hopes the girls will embody the virtues that the group teaches, such as patriotism and love of God and neighbor. She also hopes the girls serve as a bridge for their parents to become more involved in church life. She said she is eager for the group to expand.
“We are always accepting more girls,” Hunter said. “We are hoping it becomes contagious.”