Though still in its infancy, a Catholic formation and fellowship program for girls is already bearing virtuous fruit.
Vera Bella, Latin for “True Beauty,” has brought 100 Phoenix-area girls in eighth grade and high school together for regular lessons and discussion in Theology of the Body, femininity, fashion, chastity and virtue. Even more around the country are registered in the virtual program, a scaled-down version accessed by 100 groups and individuals.
Melanie Pritchard, a local Catholic speaker, author and blogger, launched Vera Bella this school year. She was expecting only 20 to 30 girls to register for the monthly course.
“It’s clear that they’re hungry. They’re hungry for something more,” Pritchard said.
She launched the program in part to fill a void formed when Pure Fashion, a faith-based program that trained and encouraged teen girls in the virtue of modesty, ended its presence in the Phoenix area. Pritchard was a guest speaker at past Pure Fashion meetings and heard from parents about the need for a formation and fellowship program for “girl talk.”
Pritchard invited eighth-graders to join Vera Bella so they can have a solid faith formation as they transition to high school. Each two-hour class features a Scripture reflection, a 20-minute talk about the related virtue and how to live it, a team member testimony from a young adult, followed by a related activity.
“They can hear the same thing their moms were telling them, but from someone else,” Pritchard said.
It’s taking what they already know from Scripture or helping them become more familiar with Scripture in order to help them live a Catholic lifestyle outside the parish and the home. Pritchard has seen the girls gain confidence and more joyfully accept their own suffering as a means of glorifying God.
Beth Jacobsen and her daughter, Colleen, called the Vera Bella program a godsend. Both had been discerning a place of Catholic formation as they also discerned sending the Our Lady of Mount Carmel graduate to a public high school.
“I knew she’d be OK. She’s got a really solid faith base,” Beth said, noting that her daughter, 15, has double the understanding of how God works in her life as a teenager than she did at her age.
“I knew that wherever I went, I wanted to evangelize and share God’s word with others,” Colleen said. What she learned in Vera Bella would further guide her.
Colleen said that feeling of being “so on fire with the Lord” comes more and more often now.
“Before the retreat, I felt nervous about talking about my faith — not necessarily with my friends, but in school,” admitted Colleen, who is five months into her first venture at a public school.
“I want to help these girls become game-changers in this world… so they don’t get tricked in society,” Pritchard said.