Eighth-grade girls pose for a photo at the annual Girl Scout Sunday Mass March 8 in St. Leo the Great Church, Lincroft.  Photo courtesy of Sharon Kreft
Eighth-grade girls pose for a photo at the annual Girl Scout Sunday Mass March 8 in St. Leo the Great Church, Lincroft. Photo courtesy of Sharon Kreft
Right now, the emphasis is on schoolwork from home for the 150 or so Girl Scouts of Lincroft’s St. Leo the Great School and Parish.

But Grace Kreft, 13, a member of Troop 856 in St. Leo School, is among the scores of Scouts there hoping that when the coronavirus restrictions lift, they’ll be able to get together and start helping those in need again through their scouting activities.

“We get together besides meetings with helping the poor and food banks,” said Grace, a seventh-grader who has been a Girl Scout at St. Leo the Great since kindergarten. “I wouldn’t mind at all if me and my family and the troops get together and collect cans and food for the shelters.”

The troops, which include girls in grades K through 8 – were last all together March 8 at the annual Girl Scout Sunday Mass in St. Leo the Great, said Diana Aliprandi. She leads Troop 856 along with co-leader Sharon Kreft, Grace’s mother.

The Mass kicked off Girl Scout Week and is considered a day for the girls to attend their place of worship and be recognized as Girl Scouts, Aliprandi and Kreft explained.

“In gives the girls an opportunity to embrace their religious beliefs with the parish community as they reflect on the words of the Girl Scout Promise to ‘try on my honor to serve God,’” Kreft said. A catechist in St. Leo the Great Parish, she and Aliprandi have been organizing the event for six years.

More than 60 Girl Scouts from all grades at St. Leo School and others from seven troops around the council attended this year’s Mass. After Mass, which Father John Folchetti, parish pastor, celebrated, the girls posed for commemorative photos, a popular keepsake every year, Sharon Kreft said.

“All of our girls are students at St. Leo School” said eighth-grade troop leader Jennifer Sullivan, whose daughter, Grace, is a member. Sullivan organized Girl Scout Sunday when her daughter was in kindergarten and turned it over to Kreft two years later

“We wanted them to get involved with Girl Scout Sunday and have the [parish] see how active the girls are,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s nice for the community to see how [our] Girl Scouts are involved with helping other people and how it builds courage, confidence and character in them as they work to make the world a better place.”

Added Kreft, “Our girls do that through a lot of programs. They really help with social concerns.” She noted that the seventh grade earned a bronze award two years ago and a diocesan “I lived my faith” award for their service including volunteering at Lunch Break, a Red Bank soup kitchen and community center, and holding food drives to restock food pantries.

“Our girls do a lot,” she said.

Also during the Girl Scout Sunday Mass, the Scouts who regularly attend the monthly children’s liturgy received “My Promise, My Faith” pins, Kreft said.

Grace Kreft shared how much the Mass meant to her, saying, “I think it was amazing to see all the girls of different ages take the Girl Scout Promise together. It gives me strength and faith to be able to help the younger girls.”

Among Girl Scouts who shared that sentiment was eighth-grader Paige McManus. She offered a Scripture reading, as did her classmate and fellow student council member, Alexa Koopman.

“We’re graduating this year, so it was very nice for us to do the readings. There were a lot of people there,” McManus said.

“We got to see all the younger troops. Girl Scout Sunday is very nice every year,” she said. “But maybe it was even more special this year because it was just before the virus.”

Because they haven’t been together since the Mass, the Scouts keep their communication going via online platforms, some of which are sponsored by the Jersey Shore Girl Scout Council.

“We are still getting learning done, and while you can’t [be with] your friends and teachers, you can still see them,” McManus said. “Our Scout friends are all friends in school and all pretty close.”

Her birthday was in April, and she had a Zoom birthday. “I got to talk with my Scout friends. That was fun.”