OSHKOSH — Kendra Keliher, 15, is hoping that 2016 is a year for a miracle. Since age 5, she has suffered from neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue, and has lived on her intense faith that a miraculous healing may take place.
She and her parents, Brian and Jean Keliher, are members of St. Jude the Apostle Parish. They have visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill, and the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Marytown, Ill.
“I really enjoy beautiful things and to be able to go to religious places that are beautiful and know that there are people there praying,” Keliher said. “I know that miracles have happened there, and I have that faith to be able to go there and pray.”
She said she already has experienced miracles in her long battle. The condition used to be very painful but the pain is now gone. “From having Masses and visiting shrines, I feel that I’ve had a miracle at those places because of the fact that I don’t have any pain anymore,” she said. “My vision is good because of my optic glioma not being problematic. I feel that has to do with the fact that I have been to all these shrines. I believe that if I hadn’t, I would be in much worse shape than I am. It’s helped me grow more in my faith.”
Keliher’s deepest desire has been to travel to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France to pray and to be washed by its healing waters. From Jan. 26 through Feb. 2, she will be traveling with a family friend on a trip that will include a visit to the grotto at Lourdes. This comes just before the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 11.
It was at Lourdes where Bernadette Soubirous experienced a series of apparitions beginning in 1858. The Blessed Mother, appearing as Our Lady of Lourdes, appeared in a niche above the grotto and instructed Bernadette to drink from the spring. Each year about 350,000 pilgrims bathe in the water at the baths near the grotto.
”I am hoping for a miracle and entire healing of my body,” Keliher said. “I don’t have pain anymore, so I’m very thankful for that. But within the past year, a tumor in my left leg has gotten bigger. Before, you weren’t able to see the tumor. Now you can, and I get tired very easily from it. I have wanted to travel to Lourdes even more because having NF has been quite difficult for me.”
Her desire for a pilgrimage to Lourdes has been strong since her diagnosis in 2005. “When I was young, I learned about Lourdes and I always wanted to go there,” Keliher said. “I can’t wait to be in miracle waters there.”
Keliher has been receiving donations toward her trip. Her father, Brian, has created drawings and published them in a calendar to help raise funds. The drawings show many of the healing places Kendra already has visited on her journey, along with other religious images.
The calendar is available at Cathedral Books and Gifts in Green Bay, On This Rock bookstore in Oshkosh, online at www.arsdeo.com, or by calling (920) 233-9807.
“This trip means the whole world to me,” Keliher said. “I’ve been praying to be able to go for 10 years now. It’s like a dream come true.”