Teresa Bartlinski, the Catonsville child whose life and courage captivated people worldwide, was borrowed from heaven to teach all a lesson in God's love, the Rev. Christopher J. Whatley said Saturday at her funeral.
The 6-year-old girl, adopted from China by Ed and Ann Bartlinski, would throw her arms around strangers and ask how many flowers she could pick in heaven. On the day she received her first Holy Communion, she told her parents she was marrying Jesus.
Now, Whatley, the parish priest at St. Mark Church, said Teresa can collect her "crown of glory, the crown of triumph." Her life was the miracle, Whatley said.
"This little girl is a saint," Whatley said. "Let us pray to her and let us ask her, 'What more does Christ want me to do for him?' and Teresa will see to it that Christ speaks to us."
She died Monday at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where doctors attempted to give her an artificial heart until a second donor heart became available. Teresa, who was born with a disorder that prevented her heart from fully developing, had received a transplant in June, but her body rejected the organ.
People throughout the United States — and as far away as Hong Kong and Iceland and Australia — followed Teresa's journey on her family's blog, "Our Place Called Home," and Facebook page, "Pray for Teresa B." Some 400 attended the service Saturday.
The Bartlinskis petitioned the faithful to pray with them for God to miraculously heal Teresa's heart and lungs. When they adopted Teresa, the Bartlinskis knew her condition was terminal, but they said they wanted to give her a chance to know a family's love.
The couple adopted Teresa and four other special-needs daughters from China and have four biological children.
Mary Scavilla, a family friend, said in a message from the dais during Teresa's funeral Mass that the congregation at St. Mark yearned for Teresa's healing.
"Over the past few weeks, as we have all been praying for Teresa, our primary prayer was for her to have a transplant and for her health to be restored, that would have convinced all of us of the power of our collective prayers," Scavilla said. "But it turns out that God wanted our eyes to be opened to another miracle."
Teresa's eldest brother, Eddy, told those gathered that Teresa could be stubborn, but that strong will was what allowed her to fight for her life for so long. She was adopted by the Bartlinskis in July 2010 from a U.S.-run orphanage in China called Half the Sky after being abandoned in a village west of Beijing.
"People have said she was so lucky to be adopted by us and be part of a loving home, but she loved us and taught us far more than we could ever love and teach her," Eddy Bartlinski said.
Teresa, although continually attached to her oxygen and feeding tube, saw no limitations, he said. She had a crooked smile, collected tubes of flavored lip glosses and wore princess costumes at every opportunity, Eddy Bartlinski said.
And she saw God in everyone, he said.
"She united the world in prayer and brought many people back to God in her suffering," Eddy Bartlinski said. "In Teresa's memory, we hope more people will open their hearts to adoption and organ donation. Teresa loved to give hugs to everyone. Her favorite saying was, 'I love you more.'
"In her memory, we also ask that everyone spread Teresa's message of love by hugging and loving each other more."
At the end of the two-hour service, Teresa's brothers carried her tiny pink casket to a hearse waiting out front of the church as the parishioners sang, "This Little Light of Mine."
A group, "Believe In Miracles," was established to take donations to help cover the medical expenses incurred by the Bartlinskis for Teresa's care.
To contribute, send donations to Believe In Miracles, P.O. Box 21199, Catonsville 21228.