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Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Winter 2001


The real world for most of us is "Ordinary Time" -- the time of nothing special. A Zen master once described this same concept as:

Before enlightenment:
gathering wood and carrying water.

After enlightenment:
gathering wood and carrying water.

In the spiritual calendar there is one of these wonderful ordinary times between Christmas and Lent. And we should try to take advantage of it.

Ordinary time at Starcross also means accepting that life is "bitter-sweet". Sickness and other shocks can change our hopes and priorities very quickly. There are going to be anxieties, fears, disappointments, and loss. But, it is our life and it is beautiful.

The hummingbirds are back, the first flowers are blooming, children surprise us at every turn. God dwells among us. All is well.


When our barn burned down, our first concern was, “How will we ship the wreaths?” There was not a lot of time to prepare. Friends appeared from nowhere to help. A warehouse in Santa Rosa was offered without charge, and people volunteered to come and help ship. David got out of school and into shipping, and the other kids helped where they could. More people than usual ordered wreaths. Once we solved the problem of half the work being done in Annapolis and half in Santa Rosa, the whole season went quite well. We are very grateful!

The Charles M. Schulz Family Ice Show benefit was also a great success. The proceeds will be divided between our program in Uganda and startup for the new Morning Glory House in Santa Rosa, providing respite for families.

Now our thoughts are turning to the new barn, which leads us to think about what we will do in the future. We have done a lot of planning about how we will use our fields, and we are now preparing to plant an olive orchard. The trees are being grown for us to make a Tuscan blend of olive oil. So one of the things happening in our barn will be processing olives. We are putting our friends on notice to develop a taste for olive oil. Our first harvest should be in about 4 years.

We have also had requests to offer dried fruit all year, so we are planning space to store fruit and assemble baskets with mixes that we prefer.

And, of course, there will be the wreath shipping. Our experience in the modern warehouse already makes sister Julie sigh whenever anyone mentions a forklift. Santa put a toy one in her Christmas stocking. One friend has already sent a donation to begin a “forklift fund”.


Grass is sprouting on the burned hillside. As devastating as last July's fire was, life rises from the ashes. The earth is healing and so are we.

As losses often do, the fire brought us opportunities to grow in unexpected ways. Removing the damaged trees from the roadside made the house and chapel more visible. That inspired us to take down some unsightly sheds, to clear brush and bramble, to open up new vistas.

Stewardship of the land is a serious responsibility. Starcross lies on sacred ground. Part of our ministry is to preserve it always as a sanctuary of peace. People rely on us to walk with them in especially difficult times. We join them in prayer during sickness and other crises. Friends and loved ones are buried here.

When we moved to Annapolis in 1976 the homestead was rundown and shabby. Although the turn of the century barn and farmhouse were well crafted, they had fallen into serious disrepair. We cleaned up as best we could and set about raising children and Christmas trees.

For years our place had a certain "rustic charm". With little money and even less innate talent as farmers and builders, we struggled along learning things the hard way. Slowly we began to upgrade. First came the little chapel on the hill, next the long-awaited house. In 2001 we hope a replacement barn will be added.

In the St. Francis field near the house we will plant a beautiful olive grove this spring. We love the Biblical references to the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed. We also love olive oil!

The new look of Starcross is open and clean. There is space for ideas and renewed energy. The barn stood on this land throughout the 20th century. Now it is gone. We feel confident, eager and ready to build again.

Sister Julie

As this is being written Julie and Toby are preparing for an important trip to Uganda. The country faces a tense election. Communications are difficult. There is instability in Central and East Africa. We have responsibility for 96 sponsored AIDS orphans. They are becoming more secure since they no longer need worry about basic survival and how to pay school fees. Now we must look to their futures, especially the older teens. We now have an additional 9 children who need to be sponsored. If you can help, please contact us. We will report on the trip in the next "Sharings".


At Brother Toby's 70th birthday celebration in Santa Rosa, 2 children of the first group rescued by our Casa Speranta (House of Hope) sang him the Romanian birthday greeting. Joining in were their adoptive mother, Susan Belfiore, our first volunteer in Romania, Rebecca Ault, the magnificent teacher who set up our Montessori School in Romania, and Marolen Mullinax who so capably took over directorship of the program after Brother Toby.

It was remarkable to see poised, confident 13 year old Ramona and 11 year old Dana Rica and to remember the starving, neglected toddlers we had encountered in a horrible Romanian institution. These lovely young girls would not have survived. There were sad moments, too, as we learned of the recent death of 12 year old Adi at Casa Speranta. Sister Marti had untied him from a cage-like crib ten years ago where his "caretakers" found him too active. Adi had some happy years before he succumbed to AIDS.

Casa Speranta began with our simple notion that all kids - including those with serious illness - need a loving family and the normal experiences of childhood. There is no need to confine a child to a crib for years because they have a potentially terminal condition. In 1991 we went to Romania, did what we could and passed the project over to Marolen's good hands. Of the original 35 children, some have died but most are happily growing up and going to school. New little ones have come. The house is full and thriving. Marolen has trained a fine Romanian director. UNICEF now provides grants and cites Casa Speranta as a model project.


Several of our friends forwarded to us a remarkable poem and urgent request from a child dying in New York. She asked us all to think about things that are central to the experience of Starcross and our friends. She only worried that people would not hear her message. We are, therefore, honored to pass on this poem to you.


Have you ever watched kids On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down. Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short. The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day On the fly?

When you ask “How are you?” Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done Do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores Running through your head?

You’d better slow down Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short. The music won’t last.

Ever told your child, We’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste, Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time To call and say “Hi”?

You’d better slow down. Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short. The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere

You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,

It is like an unopened gift. . . Thrown away.

Life is not a race. Do take it slower.

Hear the music Before the song is over.

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