God and Country, by Means of Divine Mercy

From its very beginnings nearly 100 years ago, the motivating force in Girl Scouting has been a spiritual one. Girl Scouts promise to serve God and country and "to help people at all times."

With that in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before Girl Scouts discovered the message of Divine Mercy as revealed to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, a call for spiritual renewal through trust in God and love of neighbor.

This autumn, a Girl Scout troop in Texas pinned and sewed the portraiture of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, on their sashes and vests, earning scouting's first-ever Divine Mercy Award. Alongside other awards, which give recognition for proficiency in such areas as health, sports, technology, and the environment, the Divine Mercy Award distinguishes Troop 810 in San Antonio as young women who vow to continue St. Faustina's mission of spreading Divine Mercy.

"Learning about St. Faustina has inspired me to now pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy each night and pray for the whole world's sins rather than just my own or my immediate family's," says Nina Eng, a ninth grader. "It has helped me become more thoughtful for the world."

They Wrote the Book on It
Members of Troop 810 not only completed the requirements for the award, they also wrote the book on it - literally. Through the Archdiocese of San Antonio and with assistance from many others and after four months of serious dedication and personal and spiritual growth, Troop 810 has put together a 44-page Divine Mercy Award book. The book serves as both a workbook for scouts seeking to earn the award and a primer for the Divine Mercy message and devotion. It includes requirements for the award; suggestions for living the message of Divine Mercy; instructions for praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy; art projects; and many other interesting topics pertaining to The Divine Mercy.

"We hope we can reach so many more Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and inspire them to give greater glory of God and help St. Faustina spread the message and devotion of The Divine Mercy," says Troop 810 Leader Mary Ellen Madalinski.

How did this award come about? Last spring, Troop 810 began brainstorming for a project to earn the Silver Award, the highest award earned by Girl Scouts in the 11- to 14-year-old level. The Silver Award represents a girl's commitment to herself and her community and focuses on leadership, career exploration, personal challenges, and completing a project that will benefit her community.

The girls of Troop 810 were soon approached by Laura Surovic, chairman of the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouting of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Laura asked if the troop would be interested in putting together a new Catholic religious recognition award.

"San Antonio is a city deeply rooted in the Catholic faith and our Catholic leaders are very supportive of our Girl Scout programs," said Mary Ellen. "Through the years, even when I was a Girl Scout, we had a number of archdiocesan awards for Girl Scouts. For instance, we had the St. Agnes Award and the Salve Regina Award, but it had been many years since we had had a new one."

Trusting, in a Tough Moment
For Mary Ellen, Divine Mercy seemed a perfect fit. She says it was the message of Divine Mercy that helped her through the most trying experiences of her life. It was 14 years ago. Her daughter Megan was two-and-a half months old and had to undergo open-heart surgery. Without the surgery Megan was not expected to live.

"Two days before the surgery, we prepared to have her baptized in the hospital, and so I had to leave the hospital and shop for a baptismal gown," says Mary Ellen. "Coming back from the store, my car broke down. I had to call my cousin to come and pick me up. She took me to her house for a little bit, and that's where she started to talk to me about the Divine Mercy devotion.

"She gave me my first prayercard with the Image of The Divine Mercy on it," says Mary Ellen. "Just seeing the words 'Jesus, I trust in You' really helped me get through the next several days. It was all very, very emotional and stressful. My husband, Walter, and I had three little boys to take care of and then Megan, who was very sick. There was a lot going on in a short period of time. But just having that prayercard - not knowing how to pray the chaplet or anything - just looking at that image, gave me peace knowing that God was going to help me through this."

And He did get her through it. The surgery was a success.

'With Me for Life'
Megan, one of eight members of Troop 810, says she, like the other troop members, have been moved by her mother's story and moved to be more like St. Faustina - to be more loving not just to Jesus "but also to family and friends and those in need." The troop now prays the Chaplet together.

"Girl Scouts help people, just like St. Faustina helped people," says Megan. "I will take the Divine Mercy message with me for life."

"Saint Faustina has inspired all of us," says Angie Gutierrez, another troop member.

"This project inspired me," says troop member Mariana Guiterrez. "It helped me come closer to God. The other thing is that St. Faustina came from such a poor family and she became successful in her life, inspiring so many people around the world."

"What moved me most," says Elizabeth Surovic, another troop member, "was how St. Faustina was able to write so much in her Diary and how faithful she was to Jesus."

The many requirements for the Divine Mercy Award include writing about the history of the Divine Mercy message and devotion and St. Faustina; handing out Divine Mercy prayercards to people undergoing difficult times; completing a Divine Mercy crossword puzzle and other games; and praying the Novena to The Divine Mercy.

The booklet, which is published by the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas and the Archdiocese of San Antonio, includes a page written by St. Faustina's religious order, the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. In a special message to the scouts, the sisters offer 10 suggestions for living the message of mercy. One suggestion is, "Perform a kind deed toward somebody you dislike and have difficulty with."

Addressing the scouts, the sisters wrote, "The love of Jesus for you is so great and absolutely faithful. May Jesus' love fill your heart so that all that you are and do and say may shine beautifully with the very radiance of Jesus' mercy. We embrace you in our prayers."

Divine Inspiration?
Mary Ellen says the project seemed inspired by Divine Providence. How else to explain the many people who helped it come to fruition?

She contacted the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941. The first person Mary Ellen spoke with was Mimi Romaniak, who works at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Mass. Mimi arranged to have copies of the book, Divine Mercy Message and Devotion (Marian Press), donated to the scouts to use as a study guide for the project. Mimi was so excited about what Troop 810 was doing, she told Mary Flannery, a graphic designer for the Marians, who enthusiastically volunteered her services to help design the Divine Mercy medal and patch that the scouts receive upon completion of the award requirements. Mary also helped format the booklet. Moreover, her father, a cartoonist, donated illustrations of St. Faustina for the booklet.

Joan Maroney, of Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), an apostolate of the Marians, also brought encouragement to the project. "She was very motivating and gave us a real sense of purpose from the very start," says Mary Ellen.

The Girl Scout Council paid for all the paper and ink to print the booklet. Anonymous donors paid for the initial order of The Divine Mercy patches and medals. Many others along the way also helped, including Claire Jordan Mohan, author of the book Young Life of St. Maria Faustina.

Following Troop 810's completion of the award requirements, their Girl Scout Council requested that Troop 810 host a Divine Mercy workshop for other Girl Scouts in the council. More than 30 girls, from grades kindergarten through eight, and their mothers attended a four-hour workshop, which was held in October.

40 Girls and Growing?
Including Troop 810, more than 40 girls have now earned the Divine Mercy Award.

"Hopefully," says Mary Ellen, "this award is something that, through the years, more and more scouts will embrace so that more and more people will be able to learn more about St. Faustina and the revelations she received from Jesus."

Founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouts' membership has grown to 3.7 million members. Mary Ellen points out that the Girl Scout Promise includes the words "On my honor I will serve God and my country."

"God comes first," says Mary Ellen.

How fitting it is then that Girl Scouts embrace Divine Mercy, a message that helps us put God first in our lives.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are making this book available for free to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts around the world. We invite you to download the booklet.
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