Diocesan News

Kaitlyn’s Example Shines in India

During the first year memorial service for Kaitlyn Bernhardt, participants wore yellow T-shirts in her honor. On the back was a self-portrait Kaitlyn drew before she died, and on the front there was a call for action: #BeKindForKaitlyn.

The people who knew Kaitlyn Rose Bernhardt said she lived her life in a manner of saintly example, and Msgr. Joseph Grimaldi, vicar of the Diocese of Brooklyn and pastor of St. Bernard, Mill Basin, Kaitlyn’s home parish, said the girl’s spirituality and influence spread past her circle of family and friends.

During Kaitlyn’s sickness, children in St. Theresa’s parish in Kakkanour, India prayed fervently for her. These children face extreme poverty and are ostracized because of their Christian faith.

Deacon Jim Stahlnecker of Staten Island, who was a friend of Robert Fallon’s, Kaitlyn’s great-uncle, had told the Indian community of Kaitlyn’s plight. Stahlnecker had served in Staten Island with Father Benjamin Chinnappan, an Indian priest.

Father Chinnappan, the executive director of Dalit Solidarity in India, said Kaitlyn is a role model to the children at St. Theresa’s. The Dalit Solidarity is a nonprofit group in India that seeks justice for Dalits, members of India’s lowest caste.

The children in Kakkanour developed a strong bond with Kaitlyn, who died in June 2018 from cancer and is now being considered for ocial sainthood in the Catholic Church.

“The kindergarten children gave up their free play time to go to chapel to pray for her,” Deacon Stahlnecker said.

The deacon donated funds to build a new grotto for Our Lady of Lourdes at the Kakkanour parish in Kaitlyn’s memory. A family from India that had migrated to France donated and brought a statue of the Virgin Mary for the grotto, which now serves as a place for healing and spiritual well-being, a sign of how far Kaitlyn’s holiness has spread.

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