For years I heard about one family in particular—about how their dad was an artist and then about the health problems of their daughter. Even though I was assigned to a parish in the same city in which they lived, our paths never crossed. That was, until a friend and I were planning a trip to France. I needed to do some research at two different places in France, and decided to make an eight-day trip. In my youth, I fostered a love for the apparitions in Lourdes ever since I watched the Song of Bernadette. I was going to France. Lourdes is in France. I could not go to France and not go to Lourdes. And so a hopper flight from Paris was booked! My friend going on the trip knew the artist family with the sickly daughter; and when she shared with them about her upcoming trip, she felt compelled to ask Kendra if she wanted to go to France. She knew that ever since the teenager was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis, she always dreamed of bathing in the miraculous waters of Lourdes. The trip could provide the opportunity, that if by God’s providence, the young girl might be healed of the tumor in her leg and her cancer. My friend called me, and I worked out the details. She could go!
A few weeks before our trip, the fourth person from my group ended up in the hospital and would not be able to make the European voyage. We now would have space available in our rental car, so the daughter asked, “Can my dad go too?” I said yes, but there was one problem: the dad did not have a passport. Somehow, miraculously, on the wings of angels, the passport arrived the day before we departed. It was now a trip a father and daughter could be a part of and have memories and stories to share for the rest of their lives.
We traveled all over France, from Paris to Rouen, from Lisieux to Pontmain, from Paray le Monial to Ars, and then to Lourdes. I was blessed to have this father and daughter join me on my research pilgrimage, as it became their family pilgrimage for healing. Since that trip to France, I’ve stayed in touch with the family, and celebrated Mass a few times in their home. The several months’ illness this young teenager faced, and the way she faced it, inspired me and so many.
Inspiring her Friends and Intercessors
After the trip to Lourdes, the young girl needed to undergo cancer treatments before a surgery to remove the large tumor in her leg. The surgery seemed successful, but an infection developed and more surgeries were required. While the young girl was on the mend, the family received more devastating news about her health, the cancer returned. Various experimental treatments were underway, but none were stopping the disease. In November, Kendra entered hospice care. As you can imagine, the terminal diagnosis for a teenager united many people behind that girl and her family, especially people of faith who lifted her up in prayer.
There were remarkable similarities between the young girl and the saintly Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, a member of the Focolare movement, founded by the Servant of God Chiara Lubich. Chiara Luce died in 1990 at the age of 18 from osteogenic sarcoma, an incurable bone cancer. Chiara Badano, was given the nickname Luce by Chiara Lubich, because she hoped her suffering might become a light to the world, especially to the youth. During Chiara Luce’s hospital stays, she sought to visit other patients and bring the joy of Jesus to them. In her final days, she refused morphine in order to offer her pain and suffering to God and better identify with Jesus who suffered for all of us. The inspiring story of Chiara Luce bore resemblance to Kendra’s story, from the type of cancer, profound faith, and willingness to suffer with Christ for others.
People of faith gathered around Kendra and her family at prayer vigils and benefits, but also wherever they were, as they sought the intercession of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. Surely the story of Kendra inspired those who prayed for her, because despite her physical limitations, she was resilient, and maintained her faith, saying that faith brings miracles. A few times when I offered Mass at the family home, many of Kendra’s friends gathered to spend time with her. Kendra also made many retreats with a retreat organization in the diocese, allowing her to form friendships with many youths. It’s not every day young people see another young person sick, in pain, and suffering. As they spent time with her, I know that Kendra inspired them, because I don’t know a person who could not be inspired.
Inspiring the Pro-Life Movement
A few weeks before Kendra passed, I sent a series of questions to her and hoped to get a response. One of the questions I asked was: “What do you believe God’s plan is for your suffering?” Her response was simple: unborn babies. Kendra always had a passion for the unborn, and she treasured the memory of attending the March for Life in 2015. This passion for the unborn, led Kendra to offer her intense suffering for the success of the Pro-Life movement.
During one of Kendra’s many visits to Children’s Hospital and staying at Ronald McDonald House, the family met another mother with an infant requiring medical attention. A different hospital encouraged the mother to abort her child due to the many problems and challenges the infant would face. This unsettled the mother and she felt deep within her heart she was meant to bring the child to birth. Even though Kendra did not meet this mother and child until after the baby girl’s birth, hearing their story made Kendra realize her suffering bore fruit, and this was an answer to her prayers for the unborn.
We do not know how many lives of mothers and the unborn she touched through her prayerful suffering, but we can trust it was many. Her story can inspire the many individuals who work in the pro-life movement, to know she offered her suffering for their cause. And maybe, it will inspire someone else to do the same.
Inspiring Others Who are Sick and Those Who Suffer with Cancer
It was the off-season when we went to Lourdes in January 2016. This meant the Grotto was pretty much empty and quiet. A pilgrim could spend as much time as they wanted in prayer! The lines for the piscinies, (the baths), were also much shorter than usual. With so few pilgrims in Lourdes, it was not difficult for my group of four to mix and mingle with other American pilgrims. After the English Mass, we met a father and daughter who brought their friend with breast cancer to Lourdes. Does that sound familiar? A small group, travelling to Lourdes, to pray for healing? We exchanged words for a short while, but then dispersed. That evening, as we dined at a local restaurant, those same three pilgrims entered. We invited them to join us, which sparked an evening of conversation and ultimately ended in prayer. After our meal, I asked the two cancer stricken individuals if they would like to be anointed. We proceeded to the grotto and there, in a place where Mary revealed the healing power of God through a miraculous spring of water, the two were wrapped in her mantle of prayer and anointed.
In the last weeks of Kendra’s life, she felt called to pray for others who were sick, especially to have them physically join her in prayer, and if possible, to have a priest anoint that individual. The day before Kendra’s death, I had the opportunity to do just that. Another person from the community agreed to be anointed and have Kendra pray with and for the person with cancer. It was humbling to be present and to serve as God’s instrument. I stood near as the two of them shared and prayed. It reminded me of that experience in the Grotto of Lourdes.
Kendra was a regular patient at Children’s Hospital, meaning her family often stayed at Ronald McDonald House. During one of their many stays, Kendra met a young girl with cancer and because of the treatment for her cancer had lost her hair. Kendra told her family that if she died, she wanted her hair to be cut, and used to make a wig for that young girl. Her hair was cut the day before her visitation and plans are for it to be turned into a wig for that little girl. Despite death, her life continues to impact the people she prayed for and knew in this life.
Certainly, the sick who came to pray with Kendra, but also, anyone who suffers with cancer or any other life-threatening/terminal diagnosis, can be inspired by this young teenager who continued to live her life with deep faith despite her sickness, who fought the good fight, and now has won the crown of eternal life.
Inspiring Those Who Read this Article
This young teenager on hospice passed away peacefully on January 5, 2017 in the evening, with her family by her side, chanting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. A day or two before her death, Kendra told her mother she wanted to stretch around the whole world. I suppose one could take that literally, that because of all the pain she experienced she wanted to stretch so much to gain relief. But, her mother and many others, took that to mean she wanted her story to spread across the world.
One of the questions I asked her before she passed was, “What do you want people to say when they share your story?” Again, she answered simply, saying, “the truth.” To the best of my ability, I have attempted to do just that, relay the truth, so that her story can continue to inspire many people. While she has left us, for those privileged to know her personally, they will treasure the moments they shared in their heart. For those being introduced to Kendra for the first time, I hope, she, who has inspired her friends and intercessors, who can inspire the pro-life movement, and those who suffer with cancer, can also inspire you.
She had a profound faith and belief in God. Her family visited many shrines throughout her life. They attended many healing Masses and regularly received the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. Kendra shared with me it was these very things that strengthened her on this difficult journey. It is with that same faith, hope, and trust in God, that we commend her to God, asking God to be good to her forever, granting her eternal rest, and a home with all the saints. In your kindness, please pray for her soul, and for the comfort and consolation of her family and friends who now mourn her death.