St. Scholastica Students experience the U.S.-Mexico Border

MARCH 15, 2018

St. Scholastic students on a morning hike in the Peloncillo Mountains. The group left jugs of water for weary migrants.

St. Scholastica students faced brutal winds as they hiked the Peloncillo Mountains in Southeast Arizona, an area frequented by migrants. Their mission was to check on water bottles that had been left by sisters and volunteers last month and to leave new bottles of "agua de esperanza" (water of hope) along the route. Empty water jugs were collected and filled bottles, inscribed with inspiration messages in Spanish, were left along the trail.

Later in the day, the group had the opportunity to meet with Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian organization that provides health and community services in the area.

"Each day we are learning more and seeing new pieces of the puzzle that make up the story of the border situation and the topic of immigration," said sophomore, Megan Gonrowski.

Read more of Megan's reflection here.

March 13, 2018

Crosses line the street in Douglas, Arizona, commemorating the over 300 migrant lives lost in the desert.

St. Scholastica students were greeted by a new friend in Tucson, Arizona, today. Lois Martin, active in the End Operation Streamline Coalition as well as No More Deaths, shared with the group about her work and experiences along the border.

Later, the group visited the criminal court where Operation Streamline proceedings were underway. In the courtroom, they observed over 70 migrants who had been picked up within the last two days. 

"It was an absolutely eye opening experience," said Lindsay Lee, a St. Scholastica nursing major.  

Click here to read Linday's reflection.

MARCH 16, 2018

Participants in the cross planting near Douglas, Arizona, gather for a photo after the ceremony.

On their final day in Arizona, St. Scholastica students had the opportunity to join in a cross planting ceremony in honor of Delia Herrera Atitlano, a migrant who perished in the desert. Each of the student took part in the ceremony in a special way including reading a Bible verse and sharing a poem. Two students were asked to blow conch shells to welcome the ancestors and friends to the ceremony.  The ceremony concluded with a tradition known as  smudging to take away all negative energy.  

Sophomore, Anna Lisa Dusek, said that she along with many of her fellow travelers were overcome with a grounded feeling as the week came to an end. "...We embraced the mountains, our experiences and the wonderful company."

Read Anna Lisa's full reflection here.

March 14, 2018

Today, the group learned more about the history and nuances of the border area, including a discussion on the cartel that has an ongoing hold on the area.

As MAP participants hiked in the mountains from Arizona into New Mexico, they met a border patrol agent on horseback.

A visit to a border patrol station provided an insiders view of the facility and the opportunity to speak with two border patrol agents. "They were very good about answering all of our numerous questions about the border and the ins and outs of their job," said sophomore, Hanna Schaaf.  "They had a lot of good information to share with us."

Read more about the day's events here.

March 11, 2018

Leaving behind the grey and cold of Minnesota's early spring, the students from St. Scholastica in Duluth arrived today to the warm Arizona desert. They were greeted with hugs and words of welcome from Sisters Judy Bourg and Judy Nigh. Each student was given a small, leather sandal keychain which represents the vulnerability of the migrant when attempting to cross the border. This keepsake will be an ongoing reminder of all that will be experienced in the upcoming week.

After a day of hospitality and story sharing by locals, Cassie Dee, a sophomore at St. Scholastica, summed up her first day in the desert with a touching reflection. "I experienced God today in seeing the beauty and preciousness of each human being."

Read more of Cassie's first day reflections here.

March 12, 2018

St. Scholastica students pose at the border wall near Sasabe, Arizona. Many were surprised that there is already a wall on the border.

The group was up at sunrise to begin a full day in the desert, including miles of hiking. Along the way, the students visited a cross erected in memory of migrants who had perished in the desert. They also left jugs of water in various locations for weary migrants and then stopped briefly at the border wall in Sasabe, Arizona. Sisters Judy and Lucy wanted the students to see the wall so they can compare and contrast it to the wall in Douglas, Arizona, later this week.

Josie Stellar, a student studying elementary education, says her biggest take away of the day was, "If the pain is not transformed, it's transmitted."

Read Josie's full reflection here.

March 11, 2018

St. Scholastica students before their journey to the Arizona/Mexico border from left to right: Anna Dusek, Lindsey Lee, Hannah Schaff, Josie Steller, Jessica Ellingson, Cassie Dee, and Megan Gonrowski

Students from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, are  spending their Spring Break learning and serving at the Arizona/Mexico border from March 11-17. As part of an "alternative break experience" offered through St. Scholastica, students will participate in the SSND Mission Awareness Program (MAP), an immersion experience with School Sisters of Notre Dame who minister on the U.S.-Mexico border.

MAP offers participants a fresh awareness of our oneness, our interconnectedness and our interdependence while sharing in prayer, community and ministry with the SSNDs. In Arizona, the group will learn more about migrant concerns while exploring life in a diverse border community.

In preparation, the participants have been meeting during lunch periods, watching videos and reading articles about immigration and border issues.