APPLETON — Melissa Friese loves the outdoors, so she is thankful for the camping, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and zip lining outings as a member of Venture Crew 9135. The 2016 Kimberly High School graduate also appreciates the opportunity Scouting has given her to grow in her faith. Friese, a member of Holy Spirit Parish, Kimberly/Darboy, recently completed the requirements for the Pope Pius XII religious emblem and received the honor at a June 5 ceremony.
The Pope Pius XII award challenges Scouts to explore states of life — married, single and ordained — and occupations in relation to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“We have this workbook with seven chapters,” explained Friese. “Each chapter has a theme. I read Scripture related to each chapter and discussed it with Mr. (Andrew) Reimer, my mentor. The award mainly focuses on how you can integrate faith with everyday life.”
Friese was also required to interview people involved in ministry. Her subjects included Fr. Bob Kollath, Holy Spirit pastor; Franciscan Sr. Elise Cholewinski, director of religious education; and Sarah Elmer, youth ministry coordinator.
“It was really interesting,” said Friese. “I also interviewed volunteers from the parish. I asked them how they became involved with the church and how it impacts their lives.”
A retreat was also needed to complete the Pope Pius XII award process. Friese took part in an offering by Catholic Youth Expeditions in Door County.
“I went over Easter. It was more of a silent retreat,” she said. “It was different from what I had experienced before. It gave me a lot of time to think and pray. It was great to be surrounded by a lot of Catholics, which is much different than when I’m at school.”
Writing a paper was the final step before submitting her award materials to a board of review. Friese wrote about climate change, including its effects on wildlife, agriculture and the water supply. “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, served as one of her inspirations. Friese also has a strong personal interest in the topic. She will study biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota.
“The paper is supposed to take a topic that is controversial and relate how the church sees it and how it relates to your life,” she said. “I’m definitely thinking about going into ecosystem restoration or alternative energy (as a career).”
Friese is believed to be the first girl in the history of the Diocese of Green Bay to earn the Pope Pius XII award.
“I hope other girls follow,” she said. “I’m hoping to get some fellow girl crew members to pursue it. It was good timing for me with confirmation. I don’t think I would have been ready to be confirmed without this faith experience. It gave me the extra step I needed.”
Friese is one of the charter members of Venture Crew 9135, which developed from Scout Troop 135 of St. Bernadette Parish in Appleton. Venturing is a youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women age 14 and older or who are age 13 and have completed eighth grade.
Friese, the daughter of Mike and Chris Friese, was involved in Girl Scouts as a child, but the troop disbanded. She tagged along with her brothers at Boy Scout activities. Older brother, Nate, is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Younger sibling, Sam, is a junior at Kimberly High School. Venture Crew provided another Scouting opportunity.
“We don’t do merit badges,” she explained. “It’s more community service and outdoor activities. For service, we’ve helped out at Harbor House, made paracord bracelets for Operation Gratitude, which go to soldiers, and helped out at High Cliff State Park.”
For the service component of the Pope Pius XII religious emblem, Melissa cooked a chili meal for Harbor House, which offers shelter to women and children hurt by domestic abuse.
Following the award ceremony, Melissa, who served two years as president of Venture Crew 9135, departed for her summer job at Tesomas Scout Camp in Rhinelander where she will be assisting Boy Scouts in earning the climbing merit badge and doing some team building.
She plans to remain active with her crew while away at college in the fall by participating in meetings via Skype. Her experience in earning the Catholic Scouting religious emblem will have a lasting effect, she said.
“I think I learned how to integrate my faith into everyday situations and in my decision making. I’m praying more,” said Melissa. “Before doing this, I really didn’t read the Bible. The conversations about Scripture helped me get a better understanding.”