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Kateri Tekakwitha Canonized; First Native American Saint


October 21 marked a special day for the Roman Catholic Church and, in particular, Catholic Native Americans as Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in a special ceremony in Rome. She is the first Native American to be named a saint. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Saint Kateri was born in 1656 near present-day Albany, New York, and orphaned at an early age following an outbreak of smallpox in her village. Though she survived, Kateri was left weakened, scarred and partially blind. Raised by extended family members in what is now upstate New York, Kateri was baptized at age 20 by French Jesuit missionaries who worked in her community. Because the Catholic faith was not commonly practiced by Native Americans at this time and because of her great conviction to her faith, Kateri faced great persecution from her family and community and was eventually moved to the safety of a Jesuit mission near what is now Montreal. Though she only lived to age 24, the new saint has been celebrated and venerated by the Catholic Native American community as a hero and miracle worker since her death over 300 years ago. Kateri led a life of prayer and penitential practices. She often went to the woods alone to speak to God and listen to Him in her heart and in the voice of nature and is known for fashioning crosses out of sticks and placing them throughout the woods as reminders to spend a moment in prayer. “Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help, and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture,” Pope Benedict XVI told the crowd of tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are,” he told the assembly. Three women from the Diocese of Gaylord made the pilgrimage to Rome for the Canonization,: Jeanne Marriott, Linda Woods and Carmen John. They joined some 80,000 who packed into St. Peter’s Square to witness the historic event. Marriott, a parishioner at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord and a member of the diocesan staff, said, “Being so close to the Holy Father and being able to attend the Mass of Thanksgiving in person is something I’ll never forget. This trip was not only a physical pilgrimage for me, but a spiritual journey as well.” Getting to see the “roots of her faith” has deepened Marriott’s appreciation for the Mysteries of Faith and made her “realize all of the blessings, large and small,” in her life. For Linda Woods, parishioner at now St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Peshawbestown and member of the Eagletown Kateri Circle, this canonization holds special meaning. “It’s time that we Native Americans have a saint,” Woods said. “We’ve waited and prayed for a long time for this. Finally it’s like our prayers are being heard.” Woods hopes that this canonization will revive the Catholic faith in the Native American community, she says, now that they have their own saint to intercede on their behalf. Canonized along with St. Kateri were St. Marianne Cope, St. Pedro Calungsod, St. Jacques Berthieu, St. Carmen Salles y Barangueras, and St. Giovanni Battista Piamarta. To honor the saint who is admired throughout the Diocese, the Most Reverend Bernard Hebda, Bishop of Gaylord, will be offering a Mass of Thanksgiving at Cross in the Woods National Shrine in Indian River on November 4 at 10:30 a.m. (see below). Everyone is invited. Celebrating the Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha On Sunday, November 4, Bishop Bernard A. Hebda will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the National Shrine of Cross in the Woods in Indian River. The morning will begin with a traditional Tobacco Blessing at sunrise with Tribal Pipe Carrier, Dan Chingwa. The Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. and include traditional drumming and chant from both the local Native men's and women's drum circles. In addition, Bishop Hebda will bless an icon of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha created by artist Jane Cardinal of Harbor Springs which will be a part of the Catholic Communities of L'Arbre Croche. Everyone is then invited to the Knights of Columbus an "All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast" at the Cross in the Woods Family Center. Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as “Lily of the Mohawks,” was canonized on October 21 by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome and is the first Native American to be named a saint. She is the Patron Saint of Cross in the Woods Parish and National Shrine. In fact, the founder of the Shrine, Msgr. Charles Brophy, desired that the site be known as the Shrine of the “Lily of the Mohawks” Cross in the Woods is located at 7078 M- 68 in Indian River, MI.

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