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

Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Summer 2003


For the past year we have been so focused on solving problems in South Africa, we'd get lost in the details. Up until the last moment; a 15-year-old brought us her own birth certificate and parents' death certificates because an abusive relative didn't want her to leave; finalizing the real estate deals; tramping around Durban in search of cheap furniture & household supplies; training appropriate mothers; setting a realistic budget. It was a storm. But on Saturday, June 14th I walked into the eye of that storm and remembered what it's all about - the resilience of the human spirit and the out flowing of divine grace.

They came from all over KwaMashu Township to the simple Methodist Church: the first 24 AIDS orphans who had just moved into their new homes, their new mothers, their aging grandparents, the many church women in their Auniforms@ of red cape and white hat, the Bible Woman radiant in blue, Reverend Sangweni wearing a beautiful beaded stole. I was glad to be decked out in my white monastic robe. The kids were scrubbed and in their Sunday best - which in some cases is sad because we haven't had a chance to shop.

We started with some Hallelujah type hymns. Everyone knows these by heart so they kind of dance and clap while singing. You should have seen and heard Mirriam (our resident director) she was in her element and exuding joy. When it was her turn to speak she shed "tears of joy" because these 24 children who have suffered so much, now have a home. She thanked all of the sponsors, and Starcross, and all the local people there who support and help them. I came next and was introduced to the children by the Reverend as "Gogo Julie" -- one of their grandmothers. I told them we are many little streams coming together. They now have friends like kin who care about them and will be watching over them as they grow up. I shared the prayer of St. Francis "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace..." which is amazing in Zulu.

The foster mothers were called to the front. The Reverend commissioned them in the spirit of service, not employees. I presented a handmade redwood cross for each home to remind them of our prayerful connection with them. Then Mirriam noticed the bouquet of flowers I'd brought and we'd all forgotten. I whispered to her she could give one to each child. Well, she belted out the beginning of a song and danced on down to the kids.

Believe it or not, there were exactly the right number of flowers for every person there to get one. Meanwhile, the rafters were shaking with song. We couldn't have had a grander beginning. Afterwards the kids enjoyed a magnificent spread of cakes, cookies, and punch in the church hall. We've gone over the top of the mountain and arrived at the promised land. Hallelujah!

Sister Julie



What a month was June! Sister Julie was in Africa, at Starcross the children's school was coming to an end, the farm woke up with it's own demands, a number of friends (and the world itself) faced serious challenges. But, we received an unusually large amount of mail reminding us of what was important.

Did one of the children meet Nelson Mandela? Sharon O'Reilly (Novato, CA.)

That was Andiswa. Mirriam found her wandering in a settlement looking for her little brother after their parents died. She lived with Mirriam until coming to us. President Mandela was honoring some people, including Mirriam. He noticed Andiswa and asked her what she would like to do when she grew up. Andiswa told him she wants to be a masseuse because she often gave Mirriam a back rub at the end of the day. Mandela was delighted. Pictures of them chatting together were in the next day's newspapers.

Marilyn Edwards (Ashland, Oregon)

These African orphans help all of us see the miracles that happen when love rather than fear and greed motivates and leads. The eight children in the "Resting house" seem an active group. Heather Simmons (our volunteer Intern from the University of San Francisco) The girls are powerful. Besides Andiswa and Thobile, we have the Buthelezi cousins - Happy (17) and Tholakele (13) so they are all older and pacesetters. And in the next room four boys full of fun. Thobile's brother Hlanganani (9) never stops smiling. He's always busily engaged with the Mkhize brothers Sandile (12) and Phumlani (8). Four year old Themba (Andiswa's brother) tags along. You see and hear this group all over the place - at the outdoor washtub scrubbing their socks, playing like monkeys up and down their bunkbeds, having a communal bedtime bath, kicking a soccer ball in the driveway.

I'm concerned about Simpiwe and his nightmares. Adrienne Flowers (Sebastopol, CA.)

Simpiwe's mother died in childbirth when he was 7. He saw his father murdered in "the violence." He is melancholy and discouraged because life has been so difficult. He's had to drop out of school numerous times for lack of fees. Simpiwe suffered from nightmares the first night in our new home and wanted to go to some faith healer who had given him relief from this in the past. Mirriam is taking him for a medical evaluation. However, by the second night he was calming down and able to sleep. The security of a routine and nutritious meals will help but this young man has a long way to go before he is at peace.

After 5 years how is our program in Uganda? Elizabeth Mullins (Kenwood, CA.)

I would call it healthy - in every way. The 100 kids are big, strong, energized. This is partly due to good nutrition and lots of sports but it is also related to the security they feel. They know they will be cared for. Most of the children feel hopeful about their futures.They know education is the way out of poverty. The program is moving into a new phase where the focus will be on preparing for jobs. There is a wonderful spirit of cooperation and consideration. Everyone shares and helps each other.

Phyllis Fleming (San Rafael, CA.)

Helping these AIDS orphans is an investment in the future. I like to imagine that one day one of these kids we have helped will become a doctor or nurse and show up at a hospital where one of my great-grandchildren is a patient. The investment will pay off and my offspring's life will be saved. Not really a far fetched idea, I think.

HollyAND HOLLY GOES TO EGYPT . . . . . . .

We mentioned that our Andrew was going to a 30-day "Summer Village" in Denmark with other 11-year-olds from around the world "to help build bridges of hope". We thought that was the end of the story.

In June came an emergency appeal for four American 13-year-olds to go to a similar gathering in Cairo. There are delegates from 10 nations, including Israel. Fearing for safety, the American families first approached on the East Coast backed out. Concern was mounting that the United States would send no delegates. Our indefatigable Holly joined three other Bay Area children to solve the problem.

Long concerned about the need for more understanding in and with the Middle East, Holly led our children last year to contribute the equivalent of a part of their Christmas presents to a struggling student at Bethlehem University whose studies had often been interrupted by the government closure of the University. When this was mentioned in Sharings several people asked to be taken off our mailing list. One called up to accuse Holly of contributing to suicide bombers.

Although she tested HIV+ at birth, she is negative now. Holly has a great love of life, music (viola), art, the theater, animals, and lately C boys. One school official said "When Holly comes into a class itís like opening a bottle of Champaign!" We are sure Holly will find the acceptable Islamic equivalent to that effervescence in Cairo.


Every major step we have taken in recent years would not have been possible without unexpected bequests. This includes: preserving and conserving Starcross as a place of peace and prayer for ourselves and our friends on all spiritual paths, moving toward more self-sufficiency with the planting of the olive grove, opening the homes for AIDS orphans in South Africa.

You can help ensure the future by adding a simple paragraph to your will. The language your attorney uses will be something like this: "I give Starcross Monastic Community, an independent California nonprofit corporation, located in Annapolis, California, the sum of $_______ (or alternately; __ percent of the residue of my estate, or the description of real property) for its general purposes. Starcrossí tax identification number is 94-1687876."


Several times a year, most recently on midsummerís eve, we walk around our chapel, reciting these words at each point of our spiritual compass.

We look to the unchanging and quiet north. The forest grows unattended on the north side. There is strength and peace in the stillness. In the cool light of the moon we watch the great owl fly. This is a place to walk alone, to listen to the sounds of the wind and the birds. Here we remember winter and think of our old ones.

The sun rises in the east and we remember new beginnings; birth and hope. With each day comes a fresh awakening to the presence of God in the ordinary moments of our lives. Our hearts open again to Jesus our brother who walks across history to help us choose life for ourselves and our world. The blossoms unfold and we think of spring and of children and all growing things.

In the full, warm sunlight of the south we carry out our daily activities. Here we sing songs of summer as the land bursts forth with fruit. To the southeast is people; friends and strangers and the world with all it's energy and challenges. From here also come the wild storms which test our strength and renew our appreciation for each other.

Looking to the west we watch the sun set. There is the mellow, golden satisfaction of the autumn of each day, year, life and age. We seek the strength of Mary Magdalene and the other friends of Jesus who quietly waited for the life which came from death. We learn to let go when the harvest is ending, and the leaves are falling. We listen to the unseen mighty ocean. Gradually comes an awareness of life's vastness and depth and the turning of the great wheel where each ending is a new beginning.

At our feet is the patch of earth which is our home. Here is the path of history and the mystery of life. This is where we stand. This is where we live. This is where we find the face of God in a tiny wildflower.

We follow the bird to the sky and open our lives to the stars! We feel the divine and unchanging spark within us and know that we and God are one. Blessed be the God of life and blessed be the People of God!

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