I would like to share with you some of the wonderful correspondence I’ve had with the little girl I sponsor who lives in Uganda. Her name is Noeline and we have been writing back and forth for the past 8 years.
There is a lot of discussion these days of the importance of teaching values to our children. It is not something they can learn at school or from a textbook, but rather they must see it in action.
Our children may be attending church or religious classes but how can we as parents help to bring more of the important messages of our faith, such as compassion, empathy, and sharing into our children’s lives? How can these values which are too often lost in the “noise” of today’s instant gratification society become a part of their lives?
As far back as I can recall I have always had a special place in my heart for the precious children in need who would flash across the TV screen. They always tugged at my heart. I had a deep desire to do something for children in need. I began “adopting” them through various charities around the age of 18 or 19.
Stephen and I were married in July 2015. Ever since our wedding day, we have been looking forward to starting a family together. However, we have never wanted our “family” to be confined to ourselves and our own children. As Catholics, we embrace the notion of spiritual family, and feel strongly that it is our duty to share our gifts and love with the world, especially to children who are in need.
This year Flavia, a fifth-grader at Stella Maris Primary Boarding School in Nkokonjeru, Uganda, is the "All School Work of Mercy" for the students at St. Boniface Catholic School here in the states. CARITAS For Children has a number of Catholic schools and Religious Education programs putting Catholic social teaching into practice, that is, placing the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. During this year's Catholic Schools Week, we'd like to thank all of our student sponsors, but put the spotlight on St. Boniface.
I was really surprised by how I felt and how profoundly it affected me when I finally became a CARITAS sponsor. I had been busy with parish responsibilities as a pastor and in my duties with CARITAS For Children, helping invite others to find this joy for themselves of loving another person in a visible and tangible way. Deep down, though, I knew full well I could not ask others to embrace what I was not living, but I just did not clear a space in my mind and heart to choose a child. For whatever reason it seemed daunting to me.
What can you give to a child or family member who has so much? In this last week before Christmas as we are running round trying to buy the last minute gifts for our loved ones, consider a gift that will make a difference in two lives, that of a child in need and perhaps your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or aunt. Sponsoring a child on behalf of someone you love is a gift that will grow in value and have profound impact on the child as well as your relative. Helping your loved one give to one who has little will truly help them appreciate the blessings God has given them. That was part of my motivation when I initiated sponsorship on behalf of my children.
Michael and Kelly's sponsored child is now a young woman studying at university in Uganda. While communicating now comes easily, they started out like any other sponsors puzzling over what they should write to Phiona when she was in primary school when they were brand new to each other. Kelly shared a few quick ideas on what she and her family wrote about to Phiona back in the day.
This is part two of Michael and Kelly's story of sponsoring Phiona and how it has made a difference for their family. If you missed part one, you can access it here.
“I can’t even believe this, we’re finally going to get to meet her!” Kelly was on the edge of her seat at a CARITAS For Children event. Christopher Hoar, founder and executive director, was hosting an evening of appreciation for sponsors and donors, and offering the opportunity to skype with children in some of CARITAS’ Uganda child sponsorship programs.
“She’s so far away, but she’s definitely a part of our family. There are pictures of her all over the house. The kids talk about her all the time. They always include her as part of our family when people ask how many sisters and brothers they have.” That’s how Kelly described the relationship she, her husband Michael, and their children have with Phiona, 20, whom they’ve been sponsoring since she was in the fifth grade. It wasn’t always that way though.