Kateri Tekakwitha Becomes North America’s First Aboriginal Saint
By A Correspondent
"Kateri was a child of nature. Her sainthood will raise the minds and hearts of those who love nature and work in ecology."
--Bishop Stanislaus Brzana, Bishop of Ogdensburg, N.Y.
Kateri Tekakwitha became North America's first aboriginal saint after a canonization mass at the Vatican on October 21. She was among the seven saints added to the roster of Catholic role models as he tries to rekindle the faith in places where it's lagging.
Pope Benedict praised each of the seven new saints as examples for the entire church.
"With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren," he said.
Speaking in English and French, in honour of Tekakwitha's Canadian ties, Benedict noted how unusual it was in Tekakwitha's culture for her to choose to devote herself to her Catholic faith.
"May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are," he said. "Saint Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America!"
Aboriginal Canadians and Americans in traditional dress, joined pilgrims from around the world at the mass, sang songs to Tekakwitha as the sun rose over St. Peter's Square.
There was a roar of applause when the Pope declared Tekakwitha a saint.
"I am no longer my own. I have given myself entirely to Jesus Christ."
~ Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
The process for her canonization began in the 1880s and Tekakwitha was eventually beatified by Pope John Paul in 1980.
According to a longtime deacon at the Kahnawake reserve, an event six years ago is widely viewed as a miracle which sealed Tekakwitha's canonization.
The case involved six-year-old Jake Finkbonner, who belongs to the Lummi tribe in Washington, said Ron Boyer, who was appointed by the Vatican in 2007 to help make the case for the canonization.
Finkbonner was knocked over while playing basketball, striking his lip on a post. The incident led to the boy developing a high fever which landed him in intensive care where doctors determined he had a flesh-eating disease.
The deacon said Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Mohawk from the Akwesasne reserve, happened to be visiting the area and was summoned by the family. She had a bone relic of Tekakwitha which and began to heal.
Prime Minister Harper’s statement
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement recognizing the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha:
“Today in Vatican City, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI, making her North America’s first Aboriginal Saint.
“Saint Kateri – also known as ‘Lily of the Mohawks’ – was bestowed the highest honour of the Catholic Church in recognition of her remarkable virtue and determination, and her unwavering devotion to God.
“Born in 1656 in what is now New York State, Saint Kateri was persecuted for the faith she held so tenaciously and relocated to a Christian Mohawk village in what is now Kahnawake, Quebec, where she perished at the tender age of 24.
“Throughout her short life, Saint Kateri never abandoned her faith. She taught prayers to children, cared for the sick and the elderly, and often attended mass both at sunrise and sunset.
“Today, a number of shrines in both Canada and the U.S. are dedicated to Saint Kateri, including the site of her burial at the St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, Quebec.
“The canonization of Saint Kateri is a great honour and joyous occasion for the many North Americans and Aboriginal peoples who cherish her witness of faith and strength of character. The Government of Canada stands with those who are celebrating her life on this day in Canada, the United States and throughout the world.”