“O dark Madonna of the Americas, come again to bring us the roses of compassion, justice and peace. In the midst of our winter, bestow your love on all those marginalized in these lands, and give us your gift to see dignity in the least of those among us.”
What a blessing to be accompanied today by the former classmates and friends of Sister Lucy and Ken for the memorial cross planting of FRANCISCO LUNA BELTRAN, age 44, who succumbed to the scorching heat of the Sonoran desert, on or near July 6, 2018.
Today we remembered all who have lost their lives crossing the desert, searching for a more dignified life for their family, and those who continue to walk the journey, escaping violence and dehumanizing poverty.
Earlier this year, EDUARDO HERNANDEZ SILVA, age 42, crossed the border wall at the San Pedro River, near Hereford, AZ. Eduardo walked along the river until his body and spirit gave way and he collapsed in a field near the bank of the river. Maybe Eduardo left the river in order to look for a generous soul to offer him sustenance and support. He failed in his search for a compassionate welcome and died, alone, along with his dreams of a better future for his family.
We were honored, today, by the presence of Sister Sharon Kanis, SSNDwho journeyed from Baltimore, MD to the borderlands to pray with us for the thousands who have lost their lives in our desert, due to unjust policy toward these sojourning friends.
“May we seek partnerships that confront unjust structures and hardened hearts. May we recommit ourselves to global community beyond all borders. In human solidarity, and with a firm commitment to the pathways of compassion, may we pray and act unceasingly—for sanctuary for us all”.
Today we were blessed to be surrounded by the SPIRIT of St. Francis of Assisi! Four of his Friars were present to remember and pray for BULMARO GARCIA GUERRERO, 32 years old, who drowned in a deep arroyo this past August. We were also accompanied by the powerful presence of our newest Saint, Saint Oscar Romero of the Americas, who became the voice of the poor and ultimately gave his life for people like Bulmaro who risk all for a dignified life for their families.
We gathered today to remember the lives of two men whose skeletal remains were found in the Whetstone mountains in February and November of 2017. We prayed for them, their families and for all those who are caught in dilemmas of making the dangerous choice to cross this desert, in order to support or be with their families. In this Whetstone valley, carved with “arroyos” (rainwater washes), we sang that PEACE might flow through this desert and set all captives free! Brother Tom Gerchak, OFM, a visitor from Cincinnati was able to join our group of residents from the sister cities of Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX.
Through the services of the Colibri Center in Tucson, we hope and pray that their remains will someday be identified and bring closure to the search and endless wondering of their families…”what happened to them?”
On this beautiful September day, a group of people, committed to remembering and honoring our lost migrants, gathered in Brown Canyon of the Huachuca Mountains to pray for a woman, who within the past six weeks died as she traversed these treacherous canyons. We do not know her name, but we do know that she was loved by her family, who miss her terribly and who wait to hear news of what has happened on her journey to fulfill her dream of a better life.
This prayer was prayed for our unidentified traveler:
God of love and compassion: may we always recognize your spirit: in the refugee family, seeking safety from violence; in the migrant worker, bringing food to the tables; in the asylum-seekers, seeking justice for their families; in the unaccompanied child, traveling in a dangerous world.
Give us hearts that break open whenever our bothers and sisters turn to us.
Give us hearts that no longer turn deaf to their voices in times of need;
Give us eyes to recognize a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Give us voices that fail to remain silent but which decide instead to advocate prophetically.
Give us hands that reach out in welcome, but also in work, for a world of justice until all homelands are safe and secure. Bless us, O Lord. Father Dan Hartnett, SJ
VIRGINIA LIZBETH MEJIA MEJIA, age 18, lost her life soon after she climbed and jumped from the border wall into Naco, Arizona. Virginia walked just two miles before she was left behind by her group to fend for herself. No one can imagine how an 18 year old young woman could die so close to the small town of Naco, AZ, situated so near to the border wall. Maybe she was ill, maybe she had walked for days in Mexico traveling from her hometown in Michoacán. All we know is that she had a dream, a dream that ended so close to her home country.
We gathered at the prayer garden of the Sisters of St. Agnes, two miles from the border wall in Naco. We were accompanied by friends from Connecticut, who came to the borderlands to offer their medical expertise to various clinics in Mexico and to learn what they could about our life here on the border. We prayed that Virginia Lizbeth’s spirit would fly free and that her family would receive consolation, knowing she is with God.
MARCO HUGO HERNANDEZ TELLEZ, age 26 and from Michoacán, MX, crossed into the United States with the San Pedro River. He walked up the dry river bed and succumbed a number of miles into his journey suffering from dehydration. Today we planted his memorial cross at a peacefully serene spot along the green river bank—a river that today was flowing with life-giving water.
Today, we were accompanied by a group of Catholic Priests and Sisters who are participating in the Redemptorist Renewal Program in Tucson, AZ. We shared our deep desire and prayer for consolation for the family of Marco Hugo and pleaded with God for an end to the death in our desert and a conversion of heart for our elected leaders.
Overlooking the spot where Maria de la Cruz Ramirez Garcia crossed into the United States, we gathered, along with young people from the “High Rocks” young women’s empowerment program in West Virginia, to call to mind and heart the struggle of this 27 year old woman from Michoacán to fulfill her dream of a future full of hope for herself and family.
We prayed for Maria’s family and friends who, after 13 years of separation, still mourn the loss of this young, vibrant and courageous woman.
Fourteen year old Aisa Bargman, one of our “High Rocks” participants, shared her poem with us in honor of Maria de la Cruz. It is titled “Fear”. Here it is: Fear
OMAR GARCIA HERRERA, from Guatemala and 28 years old, was left behind to die near the Texas Canyon in the Dragoon Mountains. His family in Chicago was alerted and border patrol agents were sent out to search for him. On June 26 of this year the border patrol agents arrived too late, Omar had died alone, less than 1 km from Highway 191 near Dragoon, AZ.
Those who gathered today to remember Omar and his grieving family, will forever carry his dream of being reunited with his family in their hearts.
Under the hot desert sun of southern Arizona, 19 world citizens gathered to honor and pray for a woman who risked her life for the dream of a better life for herself and her family. Less than two months ago this unidentified woman walked through this rural neighborhood with her heart set on a place unknown to us, but known to her. She failed in her journey to make her life dream a reality, as she succumbed to the heat and unhospitable terrain of the Sonoran desert.
Young students from Germany, Colombia, South Africa and the US, participants in the Border Community Alliance of Ambos Nogales, accompanied us on this pilgrimage of remembrance. We also counted as a touching gift the expressed concern and support of local neighbors, who promised to care for and remember our fallen migrant.
A moving poem was written and read by one of our BCA participants: