Girl Scouts Cienna Jaime and Jacey Salisbury from Troop 1114 stand in front of a statue of Mary at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe. (Photo courtesy of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul)
Girl Scouts Cienna Jaime and Jacey Salisbury from Troop 1114 stand in front of a statue of Mary at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe. (Photo courtesy of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul)

When a pair of Girl Scouts launched a Vinnies Rosary Project this summer, the Marian connections behind it all eluded them.

They were sure of a few other things: their deadline, their service project that inspired it and their desire to offer 50 Rosaries for as many individuals facing cancer by Aug. 15. It hadn’t dawned on them that the date was also the feast of the Blessed Mother’s Assumption into heaven.

They credited their “Mary, the First Disciple” program for inspiring the effort — the religion recognition program is through Scouting. The girls belong to Girl Scout Troop 1114 based at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe — another Marian connection.

And like the Blessed Mother, they proceeded in a very gentle fashion. They only offered two Rosaries in the first month. Cienna Jaime and Jacey Salisbury were okay with that. It was more important to spread the word.

Cindra Salisbury, Jacey’s mom and the girls’ Scout leader, helped them connect with area parishes. Each one has neighborhood assisted living facilities in their care and the girls wanted to offer residents battling cancer the chance to receive a spiritual gift. They also advertised at a summer social for Vincentians at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It was working with the Vincentians earlier in the spring that inspired them to pray so many Rosaries. “The Mary program helped us to recognize our gifts, how we can help in our community and how to be a disciple,” the girls wrote in a reflection letter.

The girls packed food boxes at the St. Vincent de Paul pantry and accompanied a Vincentian on a home visit to deliver the box. The mom at the house was beyond grateful.

She sat down to talk to the girls while her 16-year-old son unpacked and put away the food he liked from the box. The girls learned the mom had cancer and no longer had the strength or means to go to church.

Every St. Vincent de Paul home visit comes with an opportunity to pray together. The mom embraced it. Jacey noted a peaceful expression on the mom’s face.

“She hadn’t felt like that since she went to Catholic school,” Jacey said.

The girls returned on Good Friday to pray with the woman once more. They also brought rosary pamphlets from the Vincentians and a gift from the parish’s rosary makers, “So they can continue to pray when we’re not there,” Cindra, the Scout leader said.

“What it’s shown me is people are [spiritually] hungry and when they can’t get to church or they need additional prayer, they are so excited to get involved with this,” Cindra said. “To have the youth come to them, that is so big to them.”

The girls offered their third Rosary Aug. 1 for someone out of state and, as of late July, had two more scheduled. They also plan to leave notecards in the food boxes offering to visit and pray with someone who needs it, especially the sick. If the patient is too frail, the girls will pray independently.

“I just want to help a lot of people,” Jacey said.

Jacey and her friend want more peers to join their Vincentian efforts whether it’s through prayer or by helping assemble food boxes.

Janet Kovach, a Vicnentian and now coordinator of the fledgling Mini Vinnies program the girls are starting, has loved seeing such young volunteers step up. She has had great success getting help from area high schools.

She now plans to regularly open the food pantry after school to give Mini Vinnies at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and other students a chance to serve. While Jacey is eager to get others at the school and parish to join, she is also realizing such efforts now will have long-lasting effects: “So we know how to be around people who need hep so when we’re older we can help beyond just praying for them.”