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With a mother and jail and a missing grandmother, a young exploited Dominican girl escapes state foster/residential care to seek sanctuary in a monastery and forever changes the life of a young monk.
SYNOPSIS:SynopsisTitle:SanctuaryBy: Karen Samuelson
Esmeralda is five years old. Her mother Maria is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic(DR). She and her boyfriend Scott are drug dealers and addicts. The boyfriend uses Esme in child pornography, but Maria doesn’t know this. Esme’s blind grandmother has come to live with them. When she hears Esme in the boyfriend’s room and he won’t let her out, she calls the police and then hides because she is undocumented. Maria unexpectedly comes home early from work that day and gets arrested along with Scott and a friend Diego who has decided to deal marijuana only. Esme is taken away by social services to live in a residential center. The grandmother(Abuela) loves Esme deeply and has taught her about God, faith, and prayer and given her an angel necklace. These gifts are precious to Esme and she learns to rely on them during hard times as she is moved from state residential to foster care and back again. The foster family was wonderful but her placement falls through after a year when the foster mom realizes she is pregnant and the foster father can’t deal with two kids. Esme is now nine years old and desperately wants a home. Meanwhile, Maria is serving time and early on had Scott’s baby in prison; she is maturing and wants to be able to mother Esme who doesn’t want to see her. Abuela has gone to live with Rafe, her son and Esme’s uncle. They do whatever they can to find out Esme’s whereabouts. They trade evidence they’ve found against Scott for legal status. Scott gets a long sentence and Diego is released. Back at the center Esme learns about sanctuary through reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame in fourth grade and decides to run away to seek sanctuary in a Benedictine Monastery. She makes the trip and then attaches herself to Brother Terry, a sensitive and compassionate monk who becomes her Guardian ad Litem. At the monastery, Esme joins the monks in prayer, song, and chores. She fits in with her faith and belief in angels. The future status of Esme causes some dissonance among the monks. Terry confides in Father Francis, his guide and mentor that Esme has been sexually inappropriate with him, a result of her own abuse. They seek help for her and a home. The monks want her gone by September. At this time Abuela and Rafe have finally become legal and go to the monastery and are reunited with Esme. They ask Terry to be her godfather. Esme finally agrees to visit her mother in prison and meet her half-brother. Terry decides to leave the monastery. Esme has touched him deeply and he comes out to Father Francis and tells him he may want a partner and family. He promises he will always be in touch with the monks and Esme who has finally found sanctuary with her Abuela, Uncle Rafe and Godfather Terry.