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    Honoring lives lost with Sister Judy

    Day 239

    Gone But Not Forgotten

    For Sister Judy of the Sisters of Notre Dame, celebrating life, even until its end, is a powerful way to remember and honor those we’ve lost. And she wanted to show us why.

    Following GPS coordinates, Sister Judy to where Nora Cecilia Huetas Hernandez’s body, a migrant attempting to cross the border, had been discovered in 2003. As we approached the site, a white cross came into view. The crosses are a reminder of migrants who are lost in the desert. And with the help of the Sisters, these people are remembered.

    Through a symbolic celebration of life ceremony that includes community members, a Native American shaman, and a meal shared together and a handmade cross, the Sisters take time to honor the lives that were lost.

    Their ministry is called the Cross Planting Initiative, where they work to learn about the unknown migrants who have died trying to cross. Once a month, they lead a group out on a cross-planting ceremony where they hand-make a cross and give the person a proper memorial.

    What struck me on visiting one of these holy sites (as Sister Judy refers to them) is that each cross is individualized with a trinket, sometimes with a rosary, jewelry, or clothing that has been collected during the hike into the desert. These people were lost in the desert, but they’ve been found and remembered as unique human beings.

    And, through a DNA project, they’ve been able to extend these ceremonies beyond these desert sites, connecting with loved ones throughout the United States and Latin America to let them know what happened to their loved ones.

    It’s people like the Sisters of Notre Dame that remind us that life is fragile and how it’s important to celebrate each moment, even the last.

    I felt extremely honored to present them with visa gift cards to spend on ceremonial meals and gas cards to make the journey easier for those that want to celebrate a life lost.

    As Sister Judy says, “Putting up these crosses is hard, but we also don’t want the community to forget.”

     

    Meet Jilla! 

    Growing up as an immigrant in Minnesota, Jilla learned the value of community from an early age. Throughout her youth, Girl Scouts helped to ground her in that community, nurturing a strong love of where she lives and giving back to the people around her. As the Global Quality & Results Officer at Alight, she supports teams in using data in ways that showcase the humanity of the customer behind each data point. Fun fact, she earned the honor of representing her home locally and internationally as the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows. She even received a crown and resided over a real-life ice palace!

     

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