Nov 25 2008

An opportunity to care

After the 9 a.m.† Mass on Thanksgiving Day, sponsor and choir director Paige Shortal will give her fellow parishioners an ìopportunity to care.î Shortal plans to set out 30 child folders from CFCA, inviting others in the congregation to become sponsors, too.

Shortal sent notices to her congregation in Washington, Mo., outside of St. Louis. Following is the message she sent to church members, talking about her sponsorship experience and the meaning that sponsorship has brought her life:

After a priest from Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) preached at all the Masses about the fine work of this organization, Pat and I began sponsoring two children from Guatemala ñ a sister and brother the ages of our oldest two grandchildren.

I confess, I occasionally wondered if my $30 a month was being put to good use. Last year I went to India and had the opportunity to visit a CFCA project in Hyderabad. There I saw what $30 a month can do.

Paige Shortal sits with a circle with the mothers of sponsored children.

Paige Shortal sits in a circle with the mothers of sponsored children.

I was especially impressed with their philosophy of serving the whole family. They have formed mothers circles ñ groups of 30 women who are the mothers of sponsored children. Each woman contributes 50 rupees a month (about a dollar) to the treasury, and from that money, the women are allowed to borrow small amounts to start up businesses.

You wouldnít believe the quality of the small business ventures I witnessed, started with just a few dollars. I had my business cards printed by one mothers circle business ñ Grace Printing. I also bought a beautiful dress for my granddaughter from a seamstress who started her own mirror-work business.

In Hyderabad I became a believer in the CFCA effort and promised to do some work for them when I returned home. Soon after I came back, there were 25 new sponsors in Washington, many of them from the choir. We also added 10-year-old Vignonís picture to our refrigerator gallery of sponsored children.

Last month I got a call from the CFCA headquarters in Kansas City. Because of the economic issues in the U.S. and around the world, there are kids who have been too long on a waiting list for sponsorship. I promised to try to find 25 more sponsors from Washington.

These are hard times in the US and $30 doesnít stretch very far. But in India and the other countries where CFCA children are sponsored, that $30 can literally save a life. And not just save it, but offer a quality of life that will spread and grow throughout the family and the community.

I met one sponsored ìchildî ñ Mary ñwho is now in her 20s and in medical school. She plans to come back home as her villageís pediatrician.

Mary also sings in her college choir and she and I sang a duet for her family as part of the grace before our dinner. I donít think Iíll ever sing Silent Night again without remembering Mary and the pungent smell of curry.

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