Stillwater Catholic teen upholds human dignity with new scout patch

| June 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Girl Scout Carrie Johnson created a scouting patch celebrating the Church’s teaching on human dignity. According to national Catholic scouting organizations, she is the first scout to create a Catholic-themed patch. Other Catholic patches have been created by the committees. Johnson is a parishioner of St. Mary in Stillwater. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Inspired to help others grow in their faith, Girl Scout Carrie Johnson has become the first Girl or Boy Scout in the country to create a Catholic-themed patch, according to national Catholic scouting committee members.

A member of St. Mary and Troop 53688, both in Stillwater, Johnson created a patch for participants in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America to celebrate Church teaching on human dignity. She drew inspiration from 11 years of collecting similar Catholic-themed patches.

“I’ve learned all kinds of things about different saints and about the rosary and how to grow in my faith as I get older and how to keep my faith and share it with others,” said Johnson, a sophomore at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood.

Johnson’s human dignity patch depicts a globe encircled by faces of people of various cultures and ages. The phrase “human dignity” stretches across the globe.

Johnson made the human dignity patch last year for her project aiming to achieve the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor. She submitted in June to the regional Girl Scout River Valleys council in St. Paul. Girl Scouts can earn the Gold Award by completing a project that addresses an issue in society such as human trafficking or poverty. Her patch requires Girl Scouts to learn about and participate in activities that focus on human dignity, such as respect for people from conception to natural death, no matter their race or physical, developmental or emotional challenges.

“I felt like there was this need to educate Catholics about the dignity of the human person, and I thought a patch was the best way to do it,” Johnson said.

Hoping they would adopt the patch, she contacted two national Catholic scouting organizations that collaborate with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. Both organizations allow other groups to offer activity patches, which go on the back of the uniforms. The patches don’t replace merit badges, official awards for scouts that appear on the front of the uniforms.

The Catholic scouting committees offer faith-based patches with themes such as the rosary and saints.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting officially adopted Johnson’s patch April 26 at its national meeting, and the patch will become available in the fall. Based in Dallas, NCCS works with the Boy Scouts of America to assure effective use of scouting in the Church. The NCCS offers 32 Catholic-themed patches.

“They were thrilled that we’ll be able to offer an activity patch that helps our youth understand human dignity,” said Theresa Dirig, chair of religious activities at the NCCS.

Johnson also sent her project to Tolly Patten, chair of the National Catholic Committee on Girls Scouts and Camp Fire, a national coed scouting program for youths and teens, hoping the committee would adopt the patch at its February 2020 national meeting and make it available next spring.

NCCGSCF offers 22 Catholic-themed patches, and Patten said she believes Johnson’s patch would be a great addition. It will “really get girls talking about life” issues, she said.

Patten and Dirig said Johnson is the first scout to create a Catholic-themed patch. Typically, the Catholic committees create the patches.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever had a student come through and recommend one and actually do the work,” Dirig said.

And the patch is not just for scouts. Once it is posted on the national Catholic scouting organizations’ websites, anyone can learn how to earn the human dignity patch, Johnson said.

NCCGSCF also can offer the human dignity patch to Catholic parishes and schools as a member of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry. A Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, NFCYM supports youth ministry nationwide.

Johnson’s mother, Mary Jo Johnson, who leads Troop 53688, said the patch’s theme is “so basic to respecting life that it’s not just a Catholic thing. Everybody should be interested in this. I think it’s fantastic.”

Johnson also was creative in her project for the Silver Award, Girl Scouts’ second-highest honor, when she started an art club for middle school students at St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater. Johnson said she enjoys Girl Scouts because she can try different activities, earn patches and badges and spend time with friends.

Johnson is active in organizations beyond Girl Scouts. At Hill-Murray, she participates in choir, theater and tennis. She also volunteers with the St. Mary parish festival, and the holiday craft fair and parish festival at St. Michael, also in Stillwater.

Johnson tested her new patch and its requirements with a Lion Cub Scouts troop and Girl Scouts Juniors and Cadettes troops, all in Stillwater. She also had her three brothers, two whom are Eagle Scouts, complete the patch program.

Dirig said Johnson’s thoroughness and testing of the program impressed the NCCS. Johnson’s section of the patch program on gender equality in particular grabbed the committee’s attention because of its title, Dirig said. Johnson made that section to foster respect for men and women being made in the image and likeness of God, recognizing their differences and the equal dignity between the sexes.

“I think that it’s important that everyone knows those and appreciates them,” Johnson said.

It hearkens back to her overall vision of working for the patch. Johnson said she hopes that scouts and others who earn the patch take away “that everyone is loved by God and that every single person, God loves no matter what.”

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