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Archbishop Schnurr signs Memorandum of Understanding with Girl Scouts of Western Ohio

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Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr with the Girl Scouts
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, left, listens as Girl Scouts of Western Ohio CEO Roni Luckenbill, center, speaks. Archbishop Schnurr and Luckenbill signed a memorandum of understanding May 2 between the archdiocese and the Girl Scouts. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph

A relationship that dates back 99 years was formalized Thursday, May 2, when the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr and CEO of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Roni Luckenbill signed the memorandum at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati headquarters in downtown Cincinnati with representatives from both sides present to witness.

(Photo gallery below)

According to the memorandum, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati “acknowledges decades of mutual support and close cooperation with Girl Scouting.”  It goes on to note that “Girl Scout troops have been a consistent presence in a great many of our parishes and schools for generations, working in close cooperation with Catholic pastors, principals and other Church leaders to nurture the healthy development of young women, and building faith through the Catholic religious awards programs.”

At the signing ceremony Archbishop Schnurr heard from a pair of Girl Scouts. Alter High School junior Emily Reeve and St. Margaret of York 6th grader Hannah Oney both said involvement in Girl Scouts had enriched their Catholic faith. The archbishop said that Girl Scouts and the Catholic Church share common goals.

“What we as a Catholic Church try to do is very close to and in keeping with what Girl Scouting wants to do and that is recognizing the fact that God entrusts to each and every one of us particular gifts and talents and the best thing we can do for our young people is help them discover those gifts and talents,” he said. “You have so much to offer already. I think scouting helps you discover what it is. It offers you the ability to develop leadership skills and to make your contribution now. Our society needs that, and the church needs that.”

Luckenbill echoed Archbishop Schnurr’s comments and highlighted the relationship between the Church and Girl Scouts, which the memorandum said goes back to 1914.

“The mission of the Girl Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence and character,” she said. “It is the driving force of our movement and I think it so ties in with what the Catholic Church is trying to do.”

At the signing ceremony, both the archdiocese and the Girl Scouts received a commemorative award with a wood base and glass top cut in the form of a flame. It reads, “Partners in fanning faith’s eternal flame.”

Among other notes, the memorandum specifies that Girls Scouts of Western Ohio will, “respect the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and the practices, policies, aims and objectives of the Archdiocese and its parishes and schools.” The memorandum will be in effect for three years and is renewable.

A similar memorandum of understanding will be available for local Girl Scout troops and the parishes where they are located. By November of this year, the archdiocese hope that all parishes, schools and affiliated Girl Scout troops will have signed the MOA. A celebration Nov. 3 at the Cathedral of St Peter in Chains will include the Liturgy of the Hours, presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, and a social gathering.

Despite the strong ties, the relationship of the Catholic Church in the United States and Girl Scouts USA hasn’t always been perfect. Accusations have been made in the past that Girl Scouts USA had ties to organizations that teach information contrary to the positions of the Catholic Church. The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) and its affiliated group, the National Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire USA, have worked with the Girl Scouts to dialogue on the issue. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati Memorandum of Understanding comes on the heels of that dialogue, finding the issues have been resolved.

“Sometimes the standards have slipped,” said Sean Reynolds, director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry. “Its just human nature that sometimes things don’t work as well but what this does is makes it clear, and establishes where we all stand. It commits all of us to work together in a productive way and in a way that, if something slips and there is a problem, that we’re all committed to seeking a good resolution.

“In recent years questions have been raised about the Girl Scouts that have now been put to rest, thereby paving the way for this memorandum of understanding,” he added.

Another reason for the memorandum was to bring the church relationship with Girl Scouts in line with its relationships with other scouting organizations.

“Both Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls are organized where there is a charter established between a parish or school,” Reynolds said. “The Girl Scouts are organized differently and have traditionally been welcome in our parishes and schools, but there has been no formal arrangement between Girl Scouts and the Catholic Church. The idea of a memorandum of understanding provides us with a similar kind of organizational relationship with the Girl Scouts that we enjoy with the Boy Scouts and the American Heritage Girls.”

While the Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls have relationships with individual parishes or schools, they do not have a formal understanding with the archdiocese, at least not yet.

“We’re envisioning that with the Boy Scouts and eventually American Heritage Girls that there would be similar kinds of established formal agreements that clarify between the organizations what they do, and what we do and establish that every Girl Scout unit, every Boy Scout unit, every American Heritage Girls unit in our Catholic parishes or schools abides by Catholic teaching,” Reynolds said.

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