By Patrick Downes
Hawaii Catholic Herald
“Star Light, Star Bright” is a “dream of hope that the simple act of giving would help mend damaged or strained relationships among incarcerated mothers, their children and caregivers,” said Deacon Walter Yoshimitsu, diocesan chancellor.
‘Tis the dream’s 17th season. The annual Christmas party for imprisoned women and their children at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua, organized by the diocesan Prison Ministry, is Dec. 9. The festivities include fun and games, lots of quality family time, and a visit from Santa.
This year’s event will bring together 95 children and 40 mothers. Nine of the kids are coming from Maui and the Big Island for the weekend.
The neighbor island children and their caregivers will stay at St. Stephen Diocesan Center. In addition to Saturday’s noon-4 p.m. party, they will enjoy pizza with mom Friday night, a morning visit with their mothers on Saturday, and fun activities that evening. They fly back home Sunday morning.
Star Light, Star Bright is run totally on donations, volunteers, prayers and “compassion for the families, especially the children, who struggle daily with the effects of mom’s incarceration,” said Yoshimitsu, the event’s primary organizer.
Volunteers include diocesan workers, parishioners, military women, the Knights of Columbus and others.
Airfare, lodging, meals and other expenses are all covered by donations.
Sponsors buy gifts for the children and create “care” baskets for caregiver families.
For a second year, the military’s Catholic Women of the Chapel and their families have sponsored gifts for many of the children and several care baskets. The Knights of Columbus help with transportation.
As an added treat this year, St. John Vianney Parish in Kailua is donating kalua pig for the party lunch. The menu is usually hot dogs and hamburgers.
Star Light, Star Bright is also providing a party Dec. 22, plus gifts and care baskets, for the 16 boys and five girls at the nearby Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, at the request of the facility administrator Mark Patterson.
According to Paulette Vernay, Prison Ministry administrative assistant, the gifts are for the youth to give to their siblings; the care baskets are for their parents.
Patterson has invited the diocese to minister to the incarcerated youth twice a month. Vernay said her office will begin planning for the new ministry after the holidays.
The Prison Ministry office is seeking donations of money and sponsors of Christmas gifts for the children of the incarcerated women and the incarcerated youth. It also needs non-perishable food and household items to include in the care baskets for the caregiver families and the parents of incarcerated youth.
For more information, or to make a donation or sponsor a gift, contact Paulette Vernay at 203-6722 or email@example.com. Online donations may be made at www.catholichawaii.org/starlight.