Established in 2003, GUIDES is an orthodox Catholic wilderness boys troop dedicated to teaching and forming boys in the Catholic faith, obedient to the Magisterium, serving the poor as exemplified by our patron St. Francis of Assisi, and teaching hands-on bushcraft skills that instill confidence, stimulate imagination and ingenuity, and illustrate God's majesty and wonder as revealed in nature.
The GUIDES emblem illustrates the different facets of GUIDES. The compass rose at its center has a two-fold meaning. As GUIDES, the Lord is our Morning Star that keeps us focused on Him, GUIDing us along the narrow path, and pointing the way to Him for others. Additionally, a compass is an indispensable tool of the outdoors that every “guide” needs in order to find his way. The Chi-rho and “M” display our commitment to Christ and to Mary, His Most Holy and Immaculate Mother. The fire shows our knowledge of outdoor skills while the deer prints signify skilled nature observation. It's color brown on the outer circle is in honor of our patron, St. Francis of Assisi. Our GUIDES motto TO SEEK AND TO SERVE sums up the GUIDES essence, which is to seek and serve the Lord and one another and to fully explore and enjoy the natural world God has created.
Christopher West Research Fellow/Faculty Member, Theology of the Body Institute Founder, The Cor Project
Michele Quigley, Author and Homeschool mother to ten children
Thomas Fertal, President at Cardinal O'Hara Catholic High School
Dr. Gary J. Scott, Belmont Abbey College, Chair & Professor of Business and Economics
and many more (see Testimonials)
Raising godly adventurous boys for
10 years and counting..............
Having been raised on the Oklahoma prairie, Andrew was always been active in the great outdoors. His love for nature, exploration and adventure has honed his bushcraft skills for the past 35 years. His deep love for God, the Catholic Church and his family are the center of his life.
After completing his undergraduate degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Andrew pursued further education at The Ohio State University where he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife, Marika, live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they are very active in their home parish and in homeschooling their seven children. He founded GUIDES in 2003 as a Catholic alternative to Boy Scouts and has been serving in the formation of boys to young men ever since.
In 2003, when our eldest son turned 7, he desired to join a scouting troop. Having been in the traditional Weeblos, Scouts, etc., my wife and I naturally looked into involving him in a local chapter. As we pursued our options, we found that the “traditional” scouts weren’t offering what we wanted for him. We wanted practical, hands on, inspiring, life-long learning rooted in the christian tradition coupled with real outdoor skills that would serve John-Paul both now and in his future. If time was spent away from our home, we wanted that time to be well worth the sacrifice in the interruption of our family’s schedule.
As we sought, we couldn’t find these properties coupled within the realms of the same organization. After much prayer and meeting with other dads in various parishes with the same desires for their sons, I decided to begin a group fashioned in the history of our Roman Catholic Tradition which implements the outdoor skills needed for our boys to be knowledegable, reliant, safe and boldly adventurous in the world God gave us, specifically, in nature.
So it began. Our first GUIDES troop of 17 boys from different parishes - uniforms, manuals, badges and all! Our meetings keep growing larger, boys keep spreading the word to their friends and parents continue supporting. All the while, the Lord keeps working.
Now that you’re excited to start your own local GUIDES Troop, it’s easy to start!
Talk with other Catholic families in your parish, neighborhood, community and homeschool group about their interest. While the average troop size is 10-12 boys, only two boys are needed to begin GUIDES in your area. GUIDES age begins at 7-12.
Decide who will lead the boys and where you will meet. The leader(s) of the troop should be practicing Catholics committed to their faith. It’s encouraged to meet in a location in close proximity to woods or “wild area”. While we met for some years in our basement and backyard, a wooded area is much more advantageous.
Meetings last one and one half hours twice monthly. Find a regularly scheduled time that suits your members, i.e. the second and fourth Mondays of the month from 3:30-5:00pm.
Order your supplies.
Pray for participating members and leader(s).
Once your supplies arrive, begin your adventure together!
Supplies needed to begin your Troop:
The uniform for the GUIDES members consists of the GUIDES hat, belt, and shirt. The leader wears a GUIDES hat and a leader's shirt. Besides the GUIDES manuals and the accompanying leader manual, the items needed are those one would commonly use in the outdoors, of course in addition to a Bible, rosary, and some recommended reference books listed in the leader’s manual. A dependable knife and cordage are the main items utilized. Most of the projects and activities employ items that can be easily found around the house or in the woods. The philosophy of GUIDES is to improvise with what you have and not rely on excessive amounts of gear.
In a culture drowning in clip art and immediate gratification, the GUIDES Handbook is purposely hand-sketched and written to encourage creativity, expression and to develop the lost skill of drawing
keen, detailed observations.
GUIDES, Ages 7-12
It is the goal of each GUIDE to earn two badges per year.
Year One - GUIDE will earn Buffalo & Coyote badges
Year Two- GUIDE will earn Bobcat & Fox badges
Year Three - GUIDE will earn Hawk & Bear badges
Year Four - GUIDE will earn Owl & Beaver badges
Final Year - GUIDE serve as a mentor and leader for the younger boys and they will earn the GUIDES Ranger badge.
Opening prayer - decade of the Rosary
Catholic virtue teaching
Closing prayer - Prayer of St. Francis
End of the year campout out for GUIDES
Two campouts a year for GUIDES Rangers,
(one per semester)
"The adventurous Dr. Andrew Ellis will awaken your boys' eye---as he did my four boys---for the majesty of the natural wilderness, plus suggest tracking skills to its invisible cause, and techniques to navigate its lurking dangers. Get ready to knot together a makeshift raft, discern edible plants, and make an emergency snare for wild game."
- Dr. Gary J. Scott, Belmont Abbey College, Chair & Professor of Business and Economics
"For many years my sons have enjoyed and benefited from the GUIDES program. Andrew Ellis' knowledge and skills combined with his love of the Faith and calm, kind manner have been a blessing to my family. I am incredibly grateful for the example he has set for my sons, as well as the skills they have learned through his excellent program. I am very excited to see GUIDES now being offered to other families and groups. It is an excellent program and comes highly recommended!"
- Michele Quigley, Author and Homeschool mother to 10
"As a Catholic father, it's a constant challenge to face the task of raising boys to be strong, faithful, and virtuous men. I'm grateful that GUIDES is providing my boys not only the tremendous experience of learning about the joy and beauty of outdoor life, but also the joy and beauty of living their Catholic faith. GUIDES is an invaluable steppingstone in my four sons' journeys into authentic manhood."
- Jason Clark, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of The COR Project
"In a culture that often robs our sons of virtue, responsibility, and the true adventure of boyhood, Andrew Ellis strives to restore these through GUIDES. By gently teaching the truths of the Faith combined with an impressive knowledge of the outdoors, GUIDES raises the bar, challenges, and inspires. My sons have certainly benefited from GUIDES. Yours will too."
- Christopher West Research Fellow/Faculty Member, Theology of the Body Institute Founder, The Cor Project
"We love GUIDES! Besides just being lots of fun, the seamless integration of prayer and Church teachings into GUIDES helps my sons develop and nurture their view of creation through the beautiful lens of our Catholic Faith. GUIDES is doing its part in rebuilding Catholic culture, and we're so happy to be a part of it."
- Jeanette C., mother to 4 boys - Nottingham, PA
MA in Theology from John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family
"As a Catholic educator and father I wholeheartedly endorse the GUIDES program. Mr. Ellis has crafted a superb program which instills faith, confidence and the often neglected virtue of chivalry in our sons, while at the same time teaching them basic woodland skills which are so naturally appealing to them. Well done!"
- Tom Fertal, President at Cardinal O'Hara Catholic High School Downingtown, PA
"My oldest now 17, enjoyed this group. Not only was he taught our Catholic Faith and lead by faith filled men but also learned many outdoor skills. Now my two younger sons are excited to learn these same skills and spent time with friends."
- Brenda A., mother to 3 GUIDES - PA
"Andrew Ellis is a man, who like the first apostle, leads our young men to Christ. He does this through his holy yet humble presence as he teaches the boys by his example that being a Christian man can be really fun. Our boys have been forever blessed by Andrew and all of his family, and we simply love them!!"
- Lauri S., mother to 4 GUIDES - NC
"Having been in GUIDES since I was seven, I can confidently say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was able to freely bond with other amazing Catholic guys while exploring the incredible wilderness of the woods and waters. Also, through the guidance of Mr. Ellis I developed an admiration and devotion to both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis de Sales."
- Patrick, 8 year GUIDES member
"It's a fun place to go; where you learn about catechism and you go outside and discover the amazing outdoors."
- Remi, age 11 - PA
"It's off the hook!"
- Nick, age 7 - PA
"I really like that it's Catholic. We pray at the beginning and end of GUIDES. We do cool stuff outside too, and nobody ever gets left behind. I love the badges. I really like all my friends at GUIDES."
- Michael, age 10
"Mr. Ellis is generous and kind and gentle. He's really nice. He knows a lot of cool stuff about outside."
- Christopher, age 8
"My favorite part of GUIDES is when we do fun activities like building rope bridges or shelters.” - - - Daniel, age 10
"GUIDES is a really fun adventurous group of boys! I love it when we go on our end of the year hike! It's the best!
- Samuel, age 12