Tina Kent credits the Girl Scouts for teaching her skills in leadership, conflict resolution and critical thinking and for giving her an appreciation for the outdoors and opportunities to travel.
Kent became a Brownie at age 8 in her native Vermillion, S.D., and remained a Scout until she was a teenager in Waco, Texas.
Now a wife and mother of five, Kent lives in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., and is a Girl Scout troop leader in York, Pa., where her troop meets at St. Joseph Catholic School.
Her daughter Maggie, 7, a first-grader at the school, is a Girl Scout Daisy. Kent hopes daughter Ruth, 3, will one day join her sister in the Scouts.
Among other projects, her troop makes Christmas and Valentine’s Day cards for the elderly and this year donated 46 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the local Catholic food pantry and sent 85 boxes to a girls’ school in Afghanistan.
“As Catholics, we are called to be serving other people, to be reaching out, to be trying to do good in this world,” said Kent, 44, who became a Catholic at Easter 2003 when she was 35.
Kent is well aware of claims by some that the Girl Scouts of the USA promotes Planned Parenthood and its advocacy of birth control and abortion. Others have complained that some printed material distributed to Scouts contained references that countered the Catholic Church’s teachings.
After looking into the criticism herself, she told Catholic News Service, “I just don’t buy that it’s happening.”
Kent acknowledged, however, the organization on occasion may end up “associating with people who are associating with people who are not who the Catholic Church would choose to be associating with.”
The Girl Scouts of the USA, known as GSUSA, is marking its 100th anniversary this year. It has 3.2 million girl and adult members. An estimated 500,000 Catholic girls and adults in the U.S. are involved in Girl Scouts.
Criticism of the Girl Scouts as an organization has surfaced off and on over the last several years and earlier this year made the rounds again on the Internet.
In response GSUSA has strongly stated it “does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood and does not plan to create one” and takes no position on abortion or birth control. “Parents and volunteer troop leaders in Catholic churches,” it said, “have total control of the Girl Scout programming their girls receive.”
Given the large number of Catholics involved in Girl Scouts, such concerns prompted the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at its mid-March meeting to discuss GSUSA’s “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and questions about some of its materials and resources.
In a March 28 letter to his fellow bishops, committee chairman Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of South Bend-Fort Wayne, Ind., said some questions may need to be answered at the national level and others at the local level.