Sister Leyla Patricia Cerda-Sanchez CSJ, age 60, passed away unexpectedly Sept. 14, 2020 at the Congregation of St. Joseph Center in LaGrange Park, Illinois.  

Sr. Leyla was born Dec. 27, 1959 in Managua, Nicaragua, one of five children to the late Enrique M. Cerda and Leila Maria Sanchez. She attended the Colegio Pureza de Maria in Managua. She and her brother Enrique immigrated to the United States in the 1970s to continue their education and eventually became American citizens.  

Her family left Nicaragua shortly before the revolution in that country and took up residence in New Orleans. Her father, a chemist, established a spice company that provided for the family for many years. The political situation in Nicaragua and immigrating to a new country had a profound effect on Sister Leyla throughout her life.  

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Sister Leyla Patricia Cerda-Sanchez CSJ

 

Sister Leyla responded to a deeply felt call to religious life. She entered the Dominican Sisters community and remained with them for three years. Sister Leyla was attracted to the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph and on Jan. 24, 1996, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in New Orleans. She made her first profession of vows Sept. 14, 1997 and final profession Aug. 27, 2000. Her death occurred on the 23rd anniversary of her first profession.  

Sister Leyla’s undergraduate degree was in accounting, and she received her Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Loyola Institute of Ministry in New Orleans. Her passion for social justice and her bi-lingual skills led her to work for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ immigration legal services and St. Monica Social Service Center.  

Later she ministered in the LaGrange Park area at Taller de Jose and St. Barbara Catholic Church. She also served as university ministry and residential chaplain at Loyola University in New Orleans and as an assistant at St. Joseph Press at St. Joseph Center and TEACH in LaGrange Park.  

Despite the many challenges and difficulties in her life, Sister Leyla was committed to her Nicaraguan heritage, her family and to working with immigrants. She had a special care for the elders in her community. From her early years in Nicaragua, she had a particular love of horses and horseback riding. In recent years she connected with a family that boarded horses and spent some of her happiest moments with them.  

In addition to the sisters and associates of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Sister Leyla is survived by her sisters Regina Cerda Guidry and Soledad Cerda Guidry of Denham Springs, La.; her brothers Enrique F. Cerda of LaPlace and Carlos M. Cerda of Metairie and several nieces and nephews.  

A Mass of Resurrection and burial of cremains will be celebrated in Baton Rouge at a later date.  

Donations in Sister Leyla’s memory may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph, 3134 Hundred Oaks Avenue, Baton Rouge, La. 70808.