Thursday, March 26, 2009


The March-April issue of our diocesan magazine, Faith, has just been published. Here's one of the three blog-type entries from my column. The other two can be seen through the link.

"East Coast Migrant Head Start"

Their parents work in the grape vineyards, fruit tree orchards, strawberry patches and potato fields surrounding Erie. They are the children of seasonal workers. Before they start school, they attend the East Coast Migrant Head Start program downtown at the site of our original motherhouse: on East 9th Street near Parade.

For the last 27 years, the program has welcomed 65-70 children each year into this federally funded component of St. Benedict’s Child Development Center. This Head Start program includes daily meals, annual health screenings, certification for teachers/aides and a lot of parent and family education.

A few years ago, the St. Benedict site petitioned East Coast to allow them to include infants. Administrator Diane Rabe, OSB, explained, “If the youngest in the families aren’t able to attend, they might spend their days with their mothers in the pesticide-treated fields or napping in a nearby car.” The request was granted and now the April to December program includes children as young as 3 weeks old.

Two special high points occurred this year: The current staff now includes five employees who attended the program as children in the 1980s. Second, children of some of the first attendees are now enrolled in the program, so a second generation is here. Recently some of the children from the Baby Room had to move out to make room for new infants. “Do they move on to the Toddlers’ Room?” I asked one of the six sisters who works at SBCDC. “No,” she answered, “we’re opening a new room for them specially set up for those just learning to walk.” The name is perfect: the Waddler Room!

Here is a beautiful wooden bowl turned by Audrey Steff, OSB. We are all quite in awe of her talent in woodworking.