than 100 Catholic parishioners in the suburb of Little Village near
Chicago gathered Saturday to pray around the grave of a 5-year-old girl
whom they never knew but whom they’ve taken in as one of their own,
reported the Chicago Tribune.
The circumstances around the death of Jessica Chavez one year ago April 2 remains a mystery, and the people who claimed to be her family have disappeared. But parishioners at St. Agnes of Bohemia continue to pray for the little Mexican girl, whom they call "God's little angel." They held a memorial service on the first anniversary of her death.
Parishioners speculate that Jessica was being smuggled into the country from Mexico and her real mother was here illegally, which would explain why she never came forward. The little girl has become a symbol for many in Little Village of the tragedies that often befall illegal immigrants.
"We gather because none of us walks alone, and none of us is forgotten,” said Fr. Matt Foley, who buried the girl in an unmarked pauper's grave at Mt. Olivet Cemetery on the South Side last year.
“We gather because we're all responsible to remember that each moment we have a child in our midst is a moment we are blessed." Jessica’s grave remained unmarked until recently, when a local company donated a headstone.
Jessica was brought to a hospital in Kansas City, Mo., by a short and heavyset woman who identified herself as Mariam Chavez and claimed to be her mother.
Hospital officials pronounced the girl dead on arrival. An autopsy later showed that the dirty and skinny girl had died of sepsis, a blood infection, caused by a severe case of bronchopneumonia.
The woman told police in broken English that the girl had been living in Mexico with relatives, but had gotten sick. Chavez said she had gone to Mexico, picked up Jessica and was bringing her back to Chicago.
But the following day, a tall, fluently English-speaking woman showed up at St. Agnes Church in Chicago claiming to be Mariam Chavez. She told Fr. Foley her daughter had died in Kansas City the night before and she needed help getting the body back to Chicago. The priest made all the arrangements, but on the day of the funeral, April 7, the woman did not show up. Only a few people claiming to be relatives quietly paid their respects. Fr. Foley was never able to reach members of Jessica’s family again.