Great Lakes Christian Film Festival
Official Selection #GLCFF #GLCFF2019
Kathleen Kilbane – In the Presence of a Holy Child (2019)
The film tells the true story of a young Irish/Scottish girl, Kathleen Kilbane, who displayed an exceptional sanctity during her short life. She spent her formative years in an orphanage in Scotland and when she turned 12 years old she was sent to live with her grandmother on Achill Island, Ireland, only to be diagnosed with the same disease that killed her mother; tuberculosis.
She spent the last fifteen months of her life at a Sanatorium in Co Mayo. It was here that she was befriended by a Christian Brother, Maurice Anselm Conway. He recognized a holiness in the child., he wrote of her, “It is nice to remember these evenings of long ago when one felt so close to a saint.”
She would say countless Rosaries each day, she had a devout love of The Blessed Virgin Mary and she wore a blue ribbon in her hair as a tribute to her. As she lay dying she prayed for a patient who sat with her that she would never again suffer from migraines which had afflicted the young woman throughout her life. From then on she never suffered from headaches again. On the morning of her death, the other patients visited her in repose in the mortuary at the sanatorium, they prayed to and for her, they touched their prayer books, rosary beads and holy pictures to her forehead and hands and they treasured them afterwards as relics.
A solitary white rose had bloomed overnight on a rose bush at the sanatorium and was discovered on the morning of her death- the staff at the sanatorium knew that the rose bush had never bloomed before. They placed the rose on Kathleen’s breast and she was buried with it.
Br. Conway wrote down Kathleen’s story after she died, he wrote 5 or 6 handwritten copies, each slightly different, and gave them to friends. Our film is based on one of these handwritten copies, the owner of which photocopied it for us, as it is too precious to her to let it out of her possession.
In 2003 an Irish priest edited the work and published it as, No More Tears in My Eyes; The Story of Kathleen Kilbane. Since the publication of this book, many have come to pray to Kathleen, to visit her grave and to ask for her help. Stories are coming to light of how she has helped those to pray to her. Some of those stories we published in a book we compiled about Kathleen. It was my father who coined the phrase, The ‘Little Saint’ of Achill Island. We used it as the title of our book. It is hoped that in the future she becomes a recognized Saint.
Our film is a docudrama which uses Br Conway’s own words to tell her story. It was done on a very small budget, my daughter played Kathleen, my wife as a nurse and myself as Br. Conway. Friends and neighbors filled out the rest of the small cast and my father narrated the film. We filmed at the places were Kathleen roamed and played on Achill Island and we filmed at the Sanatorium where she spent the final 15 months of her life.