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Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Spring 2002

a reflection from brother Toby



  A warm gentle wind lifts a few blossoms from the apple trees. They soar like white butterflies and settle to the ground. The air has a delicate apple perfume and it is easy to dream of the fruit to come.

  This is a morning when messages have come pouring in from many quarters. Sister Marti had to take a trip to New York. She called to say she had just visited the site of the 9/11 tragedy. She could sense the echoing sounds of that fateful day at this tomb of perhaps 2000 people. Friends send news of their own private "ground zeros." An old friend inquires about the olive fields, haiku, and dreams. Then she tells us of a new need for chemotherapy. The mother of a girl sexually molested by a priest writes of the recently concluded trial in which she would come out of the courtroom in need of fresh air and think of Starcross. That is a really precious and humbling sentiment to share. A 20-year-old young woman who has cared for children with AIDS in the third world asks if, looking back on my 71 years, I think "love" helps us triumph over tragedy or to stand in the face of it. Her question is wiser than my answer will be. Near where I stand are buried the ashes of the person who was the first teacher of our children, both here and in Romania. Tomorrow it will be a year since she died and her husband will be here to sit and read by the grave.

  Friends at Bethlehem University e-mailed today the latest on their situation, “the boring daily grind of [Israeli] military occupation and closure is becoming more and more an unwelcome way of life.” It was apparently a horrible Holy Week and Passover in Jerusalem; Arab suicide missions and Israeli tanks. My greatest fear for America is that we become crippled by hatred. A San Francisco Chronicle columnist, wrote “I’ve heard Palestinian Americans spit out the word “Jews” with a hatred I’d previously heard only in World War II movies, I’ve heard Jews, friends of mine, speak of Arabs the way Southerners once spoke of blacks—as inferior beings, but a threat.” I have heard similar conversations.

  There is such a division in this world between the privileged and the struggling what can anyone do to heal the wounds? We each have to respond as best we can. In a recent report on our “House of Hope” for 100 AIDS orphans in Uganda sister Julie wrote “The Starcross approach has always been to respond in small ways to large problems.” She went on to say that this house is part of our contribution to world peace. “ The knowledge that people in other countries care about them brings these children security. The ‘House of Hope’ is exactly what the name implies—for them and for us.”

  So that is how it is here on the day the Apple Blossoms started falling. And, I wish all of you were here to be blessed by them - maybe you are.


sister Julie

  AIDS no longer makes the news headlines every day in America. In Africa it does. There is not a person unaffected, in a daily way. Our children are at the House of Hope because their families have been wiped out by the pandemic. Their teachers die, their friends die. These children will survive thanks to sponsors from abroad.

  In March I visited our 100 kids. The House of Hope was teeming with activity. Our primary schoolers looked great in their crisp new uniforms sewn by older kids in Associate Director Margaret Nanteza's tailoring class. Houseparent John Kimeze's woodworking group had produced benches for the dining room. It now has walls and a roof. The floor and glass windows will come soon. Director Ben Ssennoga and the kids have grown sweet potatoes, cassava and bananas. The new indoor kitchen with a chimney and fireplace makes boiling the drinking water much easier. A small infirmary means that a sick child can now be isolated in order to get more rest and prevent viruses from infecting everyone.

  Even more striking than the physical changes in the compound were the changes in the children. They are thriving, and they have developed trust that they will have a future.

  More than half of our children are now teenagers and attend two wonderful schools near the capital city of Kampala. They were proud to show me their schools with dormitories, labs and playing fields. As a former teacher I was delighted by their enthusiasm and love of learning. Unlike so many teenagers in the developed world, they are eager to take full advantage of educational opportunities.

I was touched by the outpouring of loving concern for America. The images of 9/11 terrified them. They wanted to express solidarity with their friends in the US. They feel a true sense of kinship with us.

   If you would like more information, or a more detailed report on my recent trip, or might consider helping as a child's sponsor contact me at 707-886-1919 or


From sister Marti’s Desk . . .

  Thank you for your generous response to our fund appeal. We simply could not keep doing what we do without your support. We ask for money once a year so that people hopefully do not feel bombarded by requests for help. If you have not responded yet, there is still time!

  The barn is going up! The foundation was poured a few weeks ago, and now the framing is being done. It has been two years since a fallen PG&E wire burned the old barn, and we are thrilled to see the new one coming. We hope this year we will once again be able to ship our Christmas wreaths and dried fruit from our own barn.

  In our last newsletter we shared that the 1903 farmhouse is in need of restoration and that we cannot afford to do it. We have had a number of helpful responses offering labor and money, and so we are optimistic that we may have a place for people to stay in the future.

  The young olive trees are growing beautifully. We can dedicate trees as memorials. A $100 donation will cover the cost of raising a tree. We will record the memorial in a book and send a certificate.

  Brother Toby’s book, Thinking With the Heart, is a finalist in the spiritual category for an award from the Independent Publishers Press organization.

  The book has a particular appeal to young people who are disillusioned with their religious experience. If you would like more information or to order a copy, click here.


Many local friends have asked to hear our David, 16, play again. Mark your calendars!

This will be his first concert in California since receiving a scholarship and grant to study the violin at The Yehudi Menuhin School in England.

JULY 23 (Tuesday) C 7:30 CONCERT CHAMBER


The program will include music by: Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Webern. Joining David will be his friend and schoolmate Jordi Bitlloch, a French/Catalonian pianist. David recently played with the London Mozart Players and was very well received by the audience and the musicians. David and Jordi have played in many British venues including the Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall. Gaye LeBaron and Norma Brown will introduce the program and the music. Maureen and Donald Green, who sponsor David's studies, will host a reception following. Tickets are $6 (no charge for music students).

  David and Jordi will also play a concert at Oakmont (July 25), a Beethoven Sonata at the Greens Festival (July 27 - Sonoma State University) and a Memorial recital at the Cistercian Abbey in Vina (Aug 11.) For more information contact sister Marti at (707) 886-1919, or



Saturday, August 10 - 9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

A one-day retreat with times of joining the community in the chapel for Lauds and Vespers, spiritual talks, music, walks and quiet. We will send information including directions and what to bring for the pot-luck. Space is limited. Please contact us soon if you plan to come.


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