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    A lay monastic family,  questing for  the sacred,  and advocating for children.  

Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Autumn 2000


Dec. 7 - 4 PM

Redwood Empire Ice Arena, Santa Rosa

For tickets call us at: (707) 886-1919

For the eighth year the Charles and Jean Schulz family is contributing a performance of the annual Holiday Ice Show as a benefit for the Starcross Children's Fund. Sparky and Jeannie have been good friends to Starcross. Sparky died earlier this year. It was a very sad time. But his spirit will always be felt in many ways. Each year brother Toby would try to thank Sparky. He would always smile and say "Oh, but it's our pleasure!" And, you could tell he meant it. He and Jeannie took pleasure in quietly being good neighbors to many people around the world.


 We get many prayer requests. Most often there is a crisis, sickness or death. Sometimes requests come almost apologetically, just wanting us to join in solidarity with a person at a particular time. Prayer does not have to be logical. Indeed, we would be hard put to explain how we pray with someone, or exactly why. We just know that it is enriching for us and a comfort to those who make the requests. If you ever feel the desire for us to stand with you in prayer, do not hesitate to ask. It is one of the things we do - - happily.


Sister Julie

Soon we will be unpacking the Ugandan creche. Carved in shiny, dark wood, the members of the Holy Family have distinctly African features. One shepherd carries a spear. The cow has long horns like those raised in northern Uganda. Looking at the scene, I can picture the walled compound which is our House of Hope. Jajja ("Granny") is up before dawn making the charcoal fire for the breakfast of cooked cereal and tea. John gets the boys up for chores and off to school. Wise, gentle Margaret whose own young son recently died, supervises the girls as well as mothering everyone. At the hub is "Uncle" Ben Ssennoga whose boundless energy and good humor hold it all together.

In December the House bustles with activity. Besides the young orphans who live there full time and the many sponsored children of the village who come by daily for meals and sports, our teenagers in boarding school come home to the House of Hope for vacation this month.

I also think fondly of our youngest, beautiful little Namusisi Jane. Last December Jane's life was in danger when rebel soldiers were terrorizing her remote village. Brother Toby analyzed the situation and decided we had to get the kids out quickly. With great difficulty, Ben made the rescue. Jane came to the house never having experienced electricity or real school. But she's a little dynamo, fearless, full of ideas and very bright. She's now a leader in the school choir and does not hesitate to organize group activities at home - no matter that she is the smallest.

The high point of the year for all the sponsored kids is the annual Christmas party at the House of Hope. We have just sent funds so the preparations can begin. Everyone helps. The compound will be festooned with streamers. The little ones will make their own newspaper party hats. There will be games and contests, singing and dancing. The grand finale will be the festive meal featuring such rare treats as meat, soft drinks and even candy.

Despite the tragedies overwhelming sub-Saharan Africa, these young people are growing up with the sense of hope and self confidence that comes from having loving kin. They have each other, and they have people halfway around the world who care greatly about them. They feel truly blessed — and so do we.


It is time to acknowledge some unsung heroes in our lives - the sponsors of our 86 AIDS orphans in Uganda. Originally we expected they would get letters from the kids, but that has not happened. Originally we thought Sister Julie would give them frequent updates, photos, etc. That also has not happened. Basically, we have provided none of the traditional things which make people feel good about giving.

We just asked for help and the sponsors responded in a magnificently generous way.

Some of these folks have the means to do it. Many do not. They work into their monthly budget the money for tuition, food and clothing for their sponsored student just as they do for their own children.

We are impressed and inspired by this loyal group. As the holiday season approaches, we at Starcross join with 86 grateful young voices in sub-Saharan Africa in saying “Mwebale nnyo nnyo!” - Thank you very, very much!


What a time it has been since August when we were devastated to lose our old barn. Feeling overwhelmed, in our last newsletter we asked for help on a number of things. What a wonderful response we received! Everything we asked for, people sent, and a few things we never thought of. It was so encouraging and comforting. Thank you so much.

The barn itself will be a long time being replaced. We have to think about all the things we did there and what kind of space we will need. In the end we will probably have much more efficient space but it won’t begin to take the place of the old barn. We had no idea how much it meant until it was gone.

The things we requested for the House of Hope in Uganda — sponsorships and a well, were also given. One person sponsored 10 children! We still need sponsorships, but certainly our desperation is greatly reduced.

As for the wreaths, orders are coming in very well, and we know people have asked their friends to buy wreaths this year. Please continue this help, as it is our main support, with the exception of contributions.

Our friends have never failed us. We find it amazing that whenever we feel alone or without resources, you are there. Thank you!

 A reflection from Brother Toby


This is not the piece I planned to write. Sister Marti and I had a rare and long hoped for opportunity to be in Israel this autumn. I wanted to give you my impressions of a visit to Bethlehem - the place where we commemorate the birth of the man who kept saying "Be not afraid." My thought was to walk the fields around the town and then share my reflections with you.

We came into Jerusalem the day the recent troubles began. Several youths were killed. The next day we sat on the Mount of Olives looking across the Kidron Valley to the beautiful city. But, what we were watching mostly was the Arab funeral at the Eastern wall. The next day we prayed with Jews from around the world at the Western Wall - the Wailing Wall. There were more soldiers there than worshipers. I never made it to Bethlehem. The road was blocked by people intent on killing each other.

The whole world saw the picture of Jamal Aldura attempting to shield his 12-year-old-son Mohammed. The boy was killed. Another young boy, Sami Abu Jazar was wearing his school uniform and standing some distance from any conflict when he was shot and killed. There have been many Mohammeds and Samis in these bloody weeks. As I write this the death toll, mostly Arab, is 90. Who is in the wrong? Who is responsible? I defy anyone to answer those moral questions. The Holy Land has never been, and will never be, a black and white area. It is always gray.

We were staying in the Arab sector, just outside the walls of the old city. In the early morning we would go on the roof to read the same psalms we use in the chapel at Starcross. Many lines deepened in spiritual significance for us. Afterwards, we watched the city wake up. Mothers had their children by the hand taking them to needed appointments before the day's troubles could begin. As we walked through the Damascus Gate and into the old city we saw many more Arab children. When we arrived in the Jewish sector it was abuzz with little boys in black pants, white shirts, broad brimmed hats. Little girls moved gracefully about in lovely smocks. All these children, Arab and Jewish, were beautiful. And there was a similarity in the faces of all their mothers as well -- all were anxious. Terribly worried. Even if their children escaped harm in the present conflict it would be only a very few years until these little Arabs and these little Jews would be fighting each other. I think, at least I hope, that if all these mothers could come together there would be peace in the land we call holy.

The day Mohammed Aldura died was the day we were prevented from going to Bethlehem. Instead we went to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. The lives of 1,500,000 Jewish kids, under 16, were snuffed out in the Nazi death camps. 250,000 of these are known by name. There is a special children's memorial at Yad Vashem. It is very beautiful. You enter a large dark room where you must walk slowly holding onto a railing. A few candles are in the middle of the room. Because of a series of prisms millions of tiny points of light are reflecting, and flickering everywhere. A voice reads the name, age and country of each of the known 250,000 victims. It takes two years to complete this roster. In my heart I add the names of “Mohammed Aldura” and “Sami Abu Jazar”.

Had I made it to Bethlehem I would not have understood it. Bethlehem is an answer. What was happening in Israel is the question. The birth of Jesus, the one we call the "Prince of Peace" and whose birthday we celebrate with so much festivity, cannot have spiritual meaning unless it is accompanied with a resolve to give greater security to all the children in all the sectors of this planet. How? Perhaps this is the question we should all ponder this Advent season.


Stress and sadness can overwhelm the family of a child with a life-limiting condition. We know this from our own experience.

Tina had a joyful, rich life until AIDS killed her shortly before her 3rd birthday in 1991. During the final months we would not have been able to provide the kind of loving day and night care she required had we not had the support of many friends and helpers.

Isabel was born in 1996 with a fatal genetic disorder. Her parents, recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, were caring for both sets of elderly parents with serious disabilities. Isabel's brain had not formed. She was unable to see, hear, swallow or control her muscles. She was expected to live just a matter of weeks. If Morning Glory House had existed at that time, perhaps Isabel's parents could have kept her at home. Instead she joined and enriched our family until she died peacefully five months later.

Exhausted parents can entrust their child to Morning Glory House for up to 3 weeks a year of respite care and in emergencies. Why do this? Because it needs to be done. With the option of respite, parents are more able to care for themselves as well as their fragile children.

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