Riverdale teen earns top Catholic Girl Scout award


Marieteresa Porcher Allen has dedicated more than a decade of her young life to being the best Girl Scout she can be. This month, she was recognized for her hard work and her devotion to her Catholic faith.

Marieteresa was the one of the only Girl Scouts in the five boroughs and Westchester County to receive the Spirit Alive emblem, one of the Girl Scout’s highest religious awards.

The special emblem is given after completing a program encouraging teen girls to reflect on how the Holy Spirit moves in their lives.

“The program was really challenging but it made me think about my faith in terms of my daily life,” said Marieteresa, 16.

While Girl Scouts is a secular organization, its program encourages its young members to engage in spiritual journeys in their individual faiths, according to the Girl Scouts website.

Outside of school, the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy junior is participating in North Riverdale Girl Scout Troop 1477, led by her mother, Karenbeatrice Porcher. Although the Spirit Alive program is self-directed, offering a selection of activities for the Scouts to complete, it requires a counselor to guide the Scout along the way — a role Porcher was happy to fill.

“She has worked so hard and I’m proud of everything she’s accomplished,” Porcher said.

Spirit Alive is designed to teach Scouts to turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom, while teaching them more about the church’s ministry. Allen completed a booklet of assignments based on biblical teachings and beliefs. She completed research projects about the church’s seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, matrimony and holy orders.

She also wrote about Pentecost, the church’s celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven a week after Resurrection.

Assignments use scriptural examples of the Holy Spirit intervening in lives.

Scouts read a selection of verses from the Book of Luke, for example, and then summarize how the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by the devil.

Essays require Scouts to study the Bible and put into their own words how to recognize the sometimes subtle influence of the Holy Spirit. They identify moments when the Holy Spirit moved in their own lives and how obeying it resulted in a positive outcome.

“We did a final project where we wrote a list of wants and needs,” Marieteresa said. “It made me realize how much I don’t really need and how much of it is just wanting stuff.”

Marieteresa has been a Girl Scout for nearly 11 years and says it has been a tremendously positive influence in her life.

“It really challenges you to do your best,” Marieteresa said. “If you really believe in something, the Girl Scouts push you to achieve it.”

The programs and support have taught her valuable skills, like public speaking, which came in handy when she served as lector during Emblem Sunday. Each year, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral hosts a special Mass for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts receiving senior level awards and recognitions.

Marieteresa led prayer for the hundreds of Scouts and their families assembled for the Mass, which was presided over by Bishop Dominick Lagonegro. During his message, the bishop recalled his youth as a Scout and how the friendship and religious training he received through the program inspired him to enter the priesthood.

Participating in the celebration was a huge highlight of the awards ceremony for the teenager.

“That was part of the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” Marieteresa said. “I mean, how many times do you get to read during Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral?”

CORRECTION:  Marieteresa Porcher Allen was one of a few Girl Scouts in New York City and Westchester County to receive the Spirit Alive emblem, one of the highest religious awards given to Girl Scouts through the Roman Catholic Church. A story in the May 2 edition had a different number of award winners this year.