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

Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Autumn 2002

CHILDREN RAISING CHILDREN

Behind the grim AIDS orphan statistics in South Africa, 3 million in the next 8 years, are even grimmer realities. It came home to us in a big way when a friend there told us that most of the orphans live in what are euphemistically called "child-headed households." In other words they are not with a grandparent, extended family member, or foster parents as most are in Uganda. They are on their own. A group of kids in a hut - no school, no income, no adult in their lives.

After the deaths in our own family, the horrors of Romania, the abject poverty in Uganda we know some of the pain of AIDS. Nonetheless, the plight of these South African children moves us deeply. We are especially concerned for the older girls who, after caring for dying parents, are now valiantly trying to raise younger siblings. The only food and clothes they have are what is given. They have no chance of a childhood. The responsibilities are crushing them. As one said:

Before my mum and my dad died, they didnít teach me about cooking or washing clothes or cleaning. Right now, I think of how things have changed. I knew I must cook and do the cleaning and other things like this, so I taught myself ... . Although Iím cooking, washing, cleaning Ďtill late, I never feel like leaving my family.

The plans for our South Africa project are evolving rapidly now. A number of valuable contacts have been established in the Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal. There will be more information later on how you can become involved. With the help of our friends, we can restore hope and happiness to some of these children so desperately in need of a friend.

A PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

In my secret heart

I give thanks to my children

On this cold night.

- Issa

Issaís four children had all died when he wrote this, yet his prayer was of thanksgiving for what they had given him. Even when life is painful there is so much to be thankful for.

Let us all be thankful for our children, who are so forgiving when we do not get it right, so earnest in their passion for justice, so full of life, and hope, and dreams.

Let us be thankful for our homes, and the peace and serenity they bring us. The security we feel there allows us to venture into the world without risking everything.

Let us give thanks for our life, the joys and sorrows that we share, and the spiritual highs and lows that bind us together.

Let us be thankful for all the people who bring goodness and love into the world, making even the most awful situations bearable, and keeping hope alive.

WHO ARE OUR SPONSORS

FOR AIDS ORPHANS?

AND WHY?

Leafing through the 75 files of Uganda sponsors, one is struck by the tremendous variety of remarkable people who help our 102 (soon to be 202) AIDS orphans.

A retired nurse supports a future nurse in Africa. Families with young children "adopt" another across the world. Couples ask for a sponsorship in lieu of Christmas presents from their grown children. A young widow sponsors in memory of her husband. Schools, church youth groups, company co-workers join together in the effort. Many take on this responsibility at considerable personal sacrifice - a family whose mother is HIV positive, another struggling to send two children to college, an elderly man on social security. The mother of our youngest sponsor wrote, "The concerns of the orphan children have become the concerns of our children. Our sixteen year old son wants to sponsor a child for a year. The enclosed money ($800) is the result of his labor."

These people loyally contribute without much from us in return. For lack of time and energy we rarely send letters, reports, or photographs. But our sponsors understand well how crucial they are in the lives of kids with no parents of their own. We asked some of the sponsors why they do it and here are some of the answers. I think all sponsors would agree with Ramon Monge, who simply said, "Why? Because they are me."

Jack Coman "Well the truth is, I remember Romania, and what an incredibly erroneous decision I thought it was for you to get involved there. I still sit back in awe on what was accomplished there. I do it because you asked. I do it because I was one who sat around for years saying there was nothing anyone could do. I do it because I receive far more than I give. I do it because I can make a difference. I do it because maybe if I donít, no one else will."

 

Adrienne Flowers "There is so much pain and despair and poverty in so much of the world that being able to focus on one child, to possibly make a difference in that life and thus in the lives he or she affects, is a small but very meaningful way of responding, for me. The Starcross project is so personally and carefully managed, "parenting" each child long-term, that those few are given much that they can then pass on to others and to their country."

Monica PeŮa "When I saw a paragraph in the newsletter some years ago about the sponsorship, I thought, "We could do that". I suppose it comes down to the fact that there was a need, and that we could help. You know how that goes!"

 

 

 

We are again in need of sponsors. Due to the poor economy, a few sponsors have had to reduce the number of children they support, or quit altogether. In addition, new sponsors will be needed for South Africa. If you would like to help or need more information about the program, please contact sister Julie. sj@starcross.org.

Holiday Wreath

WREATH SEASON IS HERE - PLEASE ORDER!

Our primary support is from the sale of Christmas wreaths and dried fruit. This year our need is more urgent than usual, because the costs for the AIDS orphans in Uganda exceeded what we took in by about $20,000. And we need start-up funds for the program we are about to begin in South Africa.

The wreaths have a gold-beaded burgundy velvet bow and Ponderosa pine cones. They are pre-decorated (but easily changed). You will be very happy with the wreaths and fruit when you and your friends receive them. A wreath and fruit order form is included with this newsletter.

Click here for information and order form.

Thank you for your support

A reflection by brother Toby

THE PUMPKINS ARE IN THE BARN!

I don't like to eat pumpkin but I love to grow them! The deep orange color is a symbol of harvest to me. Kids carve them for Halloween. Pies and breads appear in the kitchen. Hearty pumpkin soup is a favorite here -- usually served in a pumpkin. Harvesting and seeing them stored in the barn have always been special sensations for me. We have missed this since the utility company's ancient wire fell and ignited grass fires which destroyed our 1902 redwood barn two years ago. Moving in the pumpkins was the first use of our new barn. Around Thanksgiving it will be filled with wreaths and dried fruit. In a few years this will be the place where we press the olives. There was considerable satisfaction as we stored the pumpkins in the barn a few days ago.

One of the things that burned in the fire was a poem I wrote 20 years ago. I remember the sense of it. For us, the barn is a second chapel. There are times when its mammoth interior is filled with noise and frantic activity. Most of the time, however, there is a deep quiet leading to memories. I have wandered in this new structure, transplanting memories from the old barn. I remember the smiles and laughter of little ones, now almost grown, working and playing. I recall the solace of finding an excuse to be alone in the barn after the loss of a child. There were many gatherings, dinners, parties. The soul of the farm, and maybe the farmer, is in the barn.

At this moment in my life I am pulled two ways. I want to simply be an elderly worker in the barn, taking time to gaze out the big door at the trees, in their autumn colors, and the arriving birds from the north. But in the distance I hear the call of children, some close and some very far away. Not everyone has a barn but we all feel the tension between just wanting to be, and helping others have a chance to be. We cannot deny either longing. As we get older, it is well to be around understanding younger people, as I am blessed to be, who know that time in the barn, under the tree, at the hearth, must increase.

This morning's chapel reading had a line from Shakespeare, "To love that well which thou must leave ere long." My autumn prayer for us all is to have the time, and the heart, to love well all which we most treasure. Now, I think I will find an excuse to join the children in the barn.

Nicki came to us when she was two. Sister Marti rescued her from a hospital where she had been abandoned at birth because she was HIV positive. She also had to contend with diabetes, epilepsy, severe developmental delay and a heart defect. Despite the grim prognosis, Nicki beat the odds and, with Godís help, lived quite happily for 17 years.

 All were charmed by Nickiís friendliness and sunny disposition. Animals were her special friends. Nothing made her happier than watching the antics of our cats and dogs and reporting on their daily adventures. Recently, Nickiís increasing medical complications made it necessary for her to move closer to doctors and special schools. She joined the family of a nurse friend of ours. This summer her condition rapidly deteriorated. Nicki died peacefully at home after a normal, happy day. She is buried at Starcross.

The Belfiores recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their family, at Starcross. Susan Belfiore was our first volunteer mother in Romania. She spent two years fighting the Romanian bureaucracy to protect and eventually adopt the four babies who are now young teenagers. Bill and Susanís youngest son, Aidan (front center) was born 7 years ago.

ABCís Primetime Thursday will soon air a segment on the story of the Belfiore family, including their relationship to Starcross.

 

 

 

 

WWW.STARCROSS.ORG

Our website will never win any design awards but there are some interesting things in its funky corners, as we hear from people all over the world. Here are some items of current interest:

ē THE LOWLY VALE GAZETTE

OCTOBER: Jihad and Holy War (with a guest comment from Bro. Vincent Malham, president of Bethlehem University)

NOVEMBER: (we hope!): Return on Investment - Reflections on Greed

DECEMBER: What we want from Elders (a young people's panel)

 ē WREATHS AND DRIED FRUIT

UPS DELIVERED

 You can now order on-line. Please do it again and again. Your orders help us a lot and they are much appreciated, moderately priced, gifts.

Autumn

Haiku

by Issa

In every pearl

of Autumn dew

I can see my home.

The red moon!

Now, children,

Who owns that?

Here at my old house

I see the face of God

in the face of a snail.

 

 
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