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

Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Autumn 2001

Dear Friends,

Since September 11 we at Starcross, like everyone else, have experienced a series of shock waves. The horrible events of that day were followed by concerns for friends. Few of those we knew suffered direct harm but many, especially those in New York, were deeply wounded emotionally.

Letters of solidarity from the children at our House of Hope in Uganda, and other children and parents abroad were moving. Sister Marti reflected on her pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the autumn of 2000. "I think of parents in places I visited. Palestinian villages with homes knocked over by equipment made in America. Little hope was left in the eyes of parents who have no land to give their children and where schools are more often closed than open. There was concern as well in the eyes of parents in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. The dreams they have for their children can be shattered without warning by a car bomb." These parents and others around the world may know better than we what could be ahead.

 The numbers of children who lost a parent on September 11 are staggering. From one financial firm in the World Trade Center alone the estimate is 1,500 children. Another 1,000 children were left by the fire fighters who lost their lives that day. Our experience at Starcross of the deaths of children and of parents leads us to think of many little things; Christmas, soccer matches, first days of school, talks about growing up, birthdays . . .

 There were so many who died and so many left behind. Here at the moment it comes down to individual stories. Quietly, some requests are coming in for names to be included in our memorial books and in our prayers. We are profoundly moved by the few sentences we receive describing a life lost and a world of dreams destroyed.

 We know there will be more shock waves to come. If it would ever be helpful for us to stand in spiritual solidarity with any of you at this difficult time, we would be honored to do so.


  We have a new little “nurse” at the House of Hope in Uganda. Twelve-year-old Alice Nanyondo seems to have a gift of healing, according to our assistant director, Margaret Nanteza. The other children call Alice their “nursing sister” and seek her out if they are injured or not feeling well. Alice and her sister came to live at the House of Hope last May. Before that their widowed mother cared for the girls as best she could during her own final illness. Alice often missed school and had a hard time keeping up. Now she seems to have found her niche. Margaret has been teaching Alice some basic first aid. She catches on quickly. There is something in her manner that soothes and comforts the sick. As Margaret tells it, “Alice has the good spirit of a nurse, so we thank God for giving us such a person.”



This year people are stunned and preoccupied with world problems. So, our early wreath and fruit orders are much less than usual.

 On the positive side, our wreaths are even more beautiful this year. We have a gold-beaded burgundy velvet bow and gold-tipped pine cones. And the wreath will be pre-decorated (but easily changed) and include a hook for hanging. You will be very happy with the wreaths when you and your friends receive them.

 Thank you for your support. Our Christmas sales are our major self-support, and our faithful friends have always made it a success.


In these uncertain times it seems prudent, especially for those who travel to the Third World, to have contingency plans. We would like to draw attention to some of the wonderful folks who are part of these plans at Starcross.

 Our Spiritual Companions have an overall concern for our future and especially for the protection of all the children in the event of unforseen events. They are all very old friends: Abbot Thomas Davis and Fr. Harold Meyer from the Cistercian monastery at Vina, Journalist Gaye LeBaron and her photographer husband John, Dr. Frank Miraglia who has been our pediatrician for 16 years.

 Another important group is "HoHa", House of Hope Advisory. And, they do just that. For example, we recently had a concern about the amount of sickness among our children in Uganda. The HoHa members came up with a practical preventive program which is now being implemented. The members are: Linda Abrahams (human service administrator), Jack Coman (financial advisor), Monica Pena (artist/nurse), Adrienne Flowers (public health nurse/educator), Terry Miraglia (nurse/advocate). These are friends we have known and worked with for many years. HoHa meets monthly with us and is on call for emergency situations.

The publisher says: “In his new book, award-winning author Tolbert McCarroll shares his lifelong quest for the sacred with spiritual seekers who wish to rediscover their ancient faith traditions yet go beyond the official church and religious hierarchy."

 This new book has been well received. It makes a wonderful Christmas present. People are also buying it for their children who have lost confidence in any spiritual heritage. Church and student discussion groups are using it.

 Here are some of the comments coming in from people around the country:

 · “The book is immensely readable and a likely companion for those of us stumbling up the spiritual path.”

· “This is the book I want my children to read.”

· “Brother Toby’s light touch is especially helpful to those who frequently find orthodox Christianity stifling rather than freeing.”

· “A most remarkable spiritual memoir.”

· “A book rich in honesty, insight, and compassion. to all who are seeking a spiritual path through the thicket of the 21st Century.”

 There is an order form for "Thinking With the Heart" in the Gift Shop.

A reflection from brother Toby


 Michael has two children, one starting college and the other finishing high school. He has been a single parent since his wife’s death last year. His high paying telecommunications career is on shaky ground because his company is scaling down. Since September 11 he has been in and out of shock. Michael has worked hard under the assumption that he could design a good life for his family that was not vulnerable to events outside his home and workplace.

 I never had Michael's confidence. Those of us who were born in the Great Depression and grew up in World War II have always lived with a low-level insecurity. Is there anything we can say to Michael who must now learn to live with uncertainty? I don't know.

Today was a mild and sunny day. We have just covered the newly planted olive grove with straw to protect against erosion. No one could resist 6 acres of sweet smelling straw. We sat down and enjoyed the beauty of autumn. But along with my grateful and joyful feelings came a sense of guilt. At the edge of the field I could see a flag flying on the old farm house. It reminded me of all the people in the world who are losing their dreams.

 I want to watch these olive trees grow. I don't want to think about terrorist attacks and why so many people in the world seem to hate us. I don't want to answer the questions of children--and Michael. But I have to do these things. We all do.

 The holidays are coming. They will be sober. I remember December 1941 when I was almost 11. The banners with blue stars, when a son or daughter was in the service, hung next to a Christmas wreath in most of the windows on my street. I recall that Christmas in great detail. It was a deeply spiritual time when we looked beyond the tinsel to what was really important to each of us.

 A few days ago a spokesman for a band of terrorists, with a warped view of God and of the world, told his followers that every American man, woman and child should be considered "a warrior and a target." And so, we all become little blue stars. A neighbor who describes herself as "an old hippie-pacifist" has invited us to a gathering before her soldier-son goes overseas. We will go.

 "How can Christmas come at a time like this?" I heard someone say. But is this not what Christmas is all about? The coming of peace, the renewal of innocence and hope, in a troubled world? We all need that. The weeks ahead are a time to reach out to each other and to the rest of the world.

 Every contribution we make to the overall health of this planet is a contribution to peace. Cain denied having anything to do with his brother's condition. God found it then, as now, the wrong answer.




Our 98 sponsored AIDS orphans in Uganda were most concerned and distressed to hear of the attacks on America. They asked us to convey their condolences and prayers to their "good friends" in the United States. What we, with the help of our friends, accomplish at the House of Hope is only a small drop in a big ocean. But it is what we can do and are doing.

"Often we are frustrated that we can't do more for these children" say sister Julie, "but I honestly believe that none of these 98 young people will ever grow up hating the people of America--or any other country."


 The child care policies and procedure manual which we wrote for use in our Casa Speranza ("House of Hope") in Romania will be translated by UNICEF and used in China, according to Marolen Mullinax, who succeeded brother Toby as CEO in Romania.

The manual was a major accomplishment of a number of friends of Starcross and was the guide for all who worked with us. It provided safeguards for children being treated with respect as unique individuals in need of love and security. Under Marolen's leadership the program has become a UNICEF model for children living with AIDS.

 Never in our wildest dreams would we have guessed that the manual we hammered out at the farm a decade ago would be put to use in mainland China!

Where are my neighbors?

  Why do they seem so quiet

  This autumn evening? Basho


Steaming hot tea mug

  On a frosty window sill,

  A now-memory. Marti

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