Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in India built in honor of Kaitlyn Rose Bernhardt
Your contribution to the Grotto in honor of Kaitlyn has changed the face of our parish. Many people have come to the Lord and mother Mary and experienced healing, renewal and comfort. The Grotto has become an icon and part of our daily lives. As the news of the Grotto went out through Facebook and YouTube, many were impressed with our devotion. Mrs. Fabia’s’ family from Paris, France volunteered to donate the statue of Lourdes to our Grotto at Kakkanour. This family has just migrated to France from my diocese a few years ago. They have not yet fully settled in their lives. In spite of their own challenges, they were inspired by our Grotto and they decided to bring the statue of our Lady of Lourdes. On May 25, 2019, they brought Mother Mary to our village. People have been busy in fetching water from the wells and local pipes. Most our people have no plumbing, running water and sanitary facilities. In spite of their own difficulties, lots of people came to receive Mother Mary with flowers and music band. Mother Mary was well received at 7 Am and taken through our streets with rosaries and songs and installed at our Grotto during the Holy Mass. It was an awesome event. People were excited and thrilled to receive Our Lady from the Lourdes. This is truly a miracle of Kaitlyn to bless our people through the intervention of family in France. After this Grotto, many miracles do happen in the lives of our people on daily basis. Certainly, and surely the construction of our High School is the huge blessing.
In the 80- year history of St. Theresa Parish, Kakkanour, the Grotto has become a turning point for the Life of the Parishioners, before the Grotto and After the Grotto. His excellency, Bishop A. Neethi Nathan, Bishop of Chingleput, solemnized the Grotto Blessing through the Eucharistic celebration. The whole parish and the neighboring parishes witnessed this wonderful event. It was a huge spiritual banquet for our people who have been marginalized and neglected for centuries.
Before the opening of the Grotto on March 2, people were prepared spiritually for two days by the special preachers. Lots of people made their confession and prepared themselves in a worthy manner to receive Our Lady of Lourdes into their hearts and villages. Even the non-Christians came in huge number to witness this event and receive God's blessings.
The story of Kaitlyn was made known to the local population how this little angel lived her faith to the end of her short life. I also shared my own experience about Kaitlyn who also equally my own inspiration to live a life according to the will of God. People admired the courage and faith of Kaitlyn and offered prayers for spiritual strength and courage. School children considered Kaitlyn as their role model to follow Christ and Mother Mary through attending daily masses and reciting rosaries.
After the blessing of the Grotto, I could sense a deep awareness of sacredness & holiness not only in the campus but also in their lives. Many felt a kind of interior transformation and change which they could not explain.
The people have gone through lots of suffering, loses, unemployment and poverty. Half of the youth have migrated to cities in search of food for their families. As the people are Dalits and Untouchables by their birth in the caste system of India, they were systematically exploited and marginalized by various groups. People have also their constitutional rights for being Christians in India. In this kind of despair and disappoint, this Grotto has brought a kind of renewal and refreshment to their faith and hope.
The Live telecast of the Grotto blessing from Kakkanour, a rural village to New York and all over India brought our people together and gave them a sense of pride and joy which gave them acceptance and recognition.
One of the miracles that happened was that the youth who have been desperate and aimless came together and worked together and cooked the food for the pilgrims who attended this event. They collected money and fed more than 1000 people.
The school construction in memory of Kaitlyn will save many children from school-dropouts and child labor. Currently hundreds of children have to travel to nearby towns to finish their higher secondary school. Every day they have to take public transportation and attend the classes with great difficulties. By having additional block, the diocese will bless our parish to have higher secondary school. This will also increase the quality of our education. This will be a great blessing from Kaitlyn for our children. She loved the kids very much and helped them in many ways in Brooklyn.
Now the Grotto has become a shrine for many to visit and pray. During the inaugural mass, petitions were offered from the US to India. Every one prayed for their intentions. During this Lent, people from other parishes are coming to visit our Grotto as one of their spiritual acts during this Lent season.
As a parishioner commented, "This Grotto has become our fortress and security.
St. Theresa High School
Besides the Grotto that was built in India in honor of Kaitlyn, the school was just finished. Here are some photos and a letter from Father Ben in India. So very blessed:
A Blessing of St. Little Flower School; A Miracle of Kaitlyn from Fr. Ben in India
Dear Jim and friends of Angel Kaitlyn,
Greetings of love and peace from Father Ben Chinnappan. I am sure that you are all doing well during this challenging time. By God’s grace, we will be alright. My prayers are always with you. I express my deep appreciation and gratitude to all of you.
I am pleased to inform you that the children at St. Little Flower School at St. Theresa of Child Jesus parish in Kakkanour, India have the privilege of having additional class rooms now with the completion of the new school block. It is a huge accomplishment during this locked down period in India. Although the parish exists for 84 years, the people never had a decent building to accommodate the children with necessary infrastructures. They never had the luxury of sitting on the benches and desks in their classroom settings. As the people are Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables under the Indian Caste system, they were neglected and marginalized for centuries. Education was not part of their lives. Only servitude was considered as part of their calling. It is only in this contact, the new school with a new face has opened a new avenue in their lives. Thanks for the missionaries who worked hard in our villages in providing the basic education.
Through this new structure, children will have an opportunity to continue their education till they finish their schooling. They do not need to travel to other towns for higher secondary school. Father Anand Raj will easily upgrade the school with the license from the government. Since we have all provisions in the school, there will be more attendants from the neighboring villages. Moreover, the school dropouts and child-labors will decrease in numbers in the coming years. Girls will benefit a lot from this new facility where they will have safety, comfort and future. This is all happened within one or two years from the time we built a grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes, a dream Kaitlyn could not make it a reality. But Kaitlyn through her intercession and generosity of Deacon Jim, something amazing happened at St. Theresa’s Parish, Kakkanour, India. Through the new school, a dream of Kaitlyn came into a reality.
From March 2019, after the blessing of the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, both the parishioners and the children began to pray to mother Mary and to Kaitlyn for a new school which will accommodate their needs. The miracle has come true from Brooklyn to kakkanour as Kaitlyn was journeying towards the roadmap of her sainthood. Jim and his friends played a vital role in fulfilling the designs of God to the poorest of the poor. Thank you, Jim and your friends, all over the country.
Today, Oct 1st 2020 is the Feast of St. Theresa of Child Jesus. The parishioners are celebrating their patroness feast day with much joy and happiness. Due to the pandemic and corona outbreak, a lot of restrictions were imposed just to protect others. Solemn mass with six priests were celebrated in the morning hours. During the mass, special intercessory prayers were offered for Kaitlyn and US friends and in a special way for Deacon Jim. Prayers for the sainthood of Kaitlyn were also kept at the altar as she loved children and maintained a great role model for everyone. After the mass, Father Arul Selvan, the chief celebrant, Father Anand Raj, the parish priest and the people went to the school premise to bless the new school block, the first floor with five class rooms. Due to the corona outbreak, a simple ceremony of thanking God took place. Prayers were offered for all the benefactors who made a dream come into a reality for the poorest of the poor children. Thank you, Kaitlyn and Deacon Jim for your huge generosity and kindness.
During this isolation and lockdown period, the blessing of the school is indeed good news for many children. They have a new hope that they too can come up with flying colors in their lives. They are very proud of their new school that has all infrastructures such as water, desks, fans, toilets and play ground. No other school near by has all these furnished class rooms. Both the children and parishioners were very excited and very thankful for all of you. They assure you all of their humble prayers for your families and for the United States of America.
Thank you all especially Deacon Jim!
Testimony to Deacon Jim Stahlnecker from Father Ben in India:
Thanks for your continuous support to St. Theresa’s Parish.
Our parish has been in existence for almost 80 years. I am native of this parish and my father was a church catechist for many years. Being a Dalit parish, we are not well treated and equally respected by the diocese which is pretty dominated by the caste hierarchy for many years. Our parish has been neglected and marginalized until today. We are close to 300 families; everyone is a Dalit and outcaste background under the India’s caste system. Most of them are poor economically, still living in huts and average concrete houses. There is not much of plumbing, electricity or other conveniences. Many of our families have left our village in search of food and jobs to nearby cities and towns. Poverty and unemployment have been our birth right. Our children could not complete their high school education due to extreme poverty. Many of them become school dropouts and eventually become child laborers and bonded laborers to the local landlords. This is the context that I come from as a priest witnessing to the suffering, oppression and discrimination of our people. My entry to North America brought a little hope. My association with you and the establishment of Dalit Solidarity, a charity brought change and transformation in many lives. For the last 31 years as a priest, I have brought the Love of Jesus and Mother Mary to thousands of children and hundreds of widows. You have been always an inspiration and a living witness to the Lord through your generosity and kindness.