The Catholic University of America

Caroline Johnson

Senior Following a Passion for Service

The best day of Caroline Johnson’s spring break was spent with Gilberto, a Costa Rican man with severe physical and cognitive impairments. They played soccer in a grassy area outside a convent in Alajuela, Costa Rica, where Johnson lived the week of spring break while on a mission trip with other Catholic University students.

Soon she will be spending all of her time helping people like Gilberto — Johnson is moving to Alajuela after Commencement in May to complete a year of service with FrancisCorps, a faith-based long-term service organization. Her new home is right next to the makeshift soccer field she and Gilberto enjoyed earlier this month.

Johnson, a senior social work major from Dallas, says the idea of doing a year of service has long been appealing to her, but she wasn’t always sure where this idea would take her. Johnson’s experience as a resident minister (RM) this year shaped her decision to seek a faith-based service program.

“Being an RM has been the single best experience of my senior year. The values I’ve learned in ministry have solidified my faith, what I believe about the world, and how I want to spend my time in the world,” Johnson says.

Some of the values that Johnson has come to uphold are rooted in Franciscan spirituality. She has always appreciated the Franciscan ideals of service to the poor, simplistic living, and social justice, but her time spent with Brother Jim Moore, who is associate campus minister for justice and missions, founder of FrancisCorps, and Johnson’s ministry supervisor, has made her realize that she wants to live out these values.

“Caroline is a dynamic, faith-filled and intelligent young woman with so many talents,” says Moore. “She has a great sense of humor and an electric, extraverted personality. She has a great ability for bringing out the hidden gifts and talents of all she meets. As the founder of the FrancisCorps program, I am very excited and happy for her and for all those to whom she will minister.”

Johnson was accepted early to FrancisCorps’ Costa Rica program. She says she wants to work at Manos Abiertas, the hospital and home for adults with physical and cognitive impairments where Gilberto lives.

Johnson hopes to be placed at Manos Abiertas because she has both a passion for and experience with working in hospitals. This year, Johnson is the case management intern in the brain injury unit of MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Working at MedStar has just reinforced how much I want to work in the health care system, in a medical setting,” says Johnson.

When she returns from Costa Rica, Johnson says she plans to go to graduate school for public health.

“My dream job would be working for the World Health Organization. I would spend half my time at WHO and half my time in Central America opening health clinics. Basically, I want to help save the world,” Johnson says with a huge smile.

Although Johnson is sure of her path now, she says she came to Catholic University as a musical theatre major. “I called my mom one day and told her I would rather be in the library writing a paper than singing in the practice room and I switched my major. Music will always be in my life though,” Johnson notes.

Johnson says she enjoys the size of Catholic University. “I love it here. I love that every time I walk into Starbucks I see 10 people I know,” she adds.

Looking ahead to August when Johnson leaves for Costa Rica, she says, “I’m hoping to be humbled by the experience. I know that in my own life I have been very blessed and privileged and I hope that I’ll learn values and life skills from Franciscan spirituality and apply them to everyday life when I return.”

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Caroline Johnson

Hometown: Dallas

Major: Social Work

Favorite CUA event: Shamrockappella

Favorite non-social work course: Neuropsychology

Best resident minister event: February's CUA on Tap
Favorite musical: Jersey Boys