October 29, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 26
During a prayer service at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Tabb, Bishop Emeritus Walter F. Sullivan blesses an image of St. Kateri Tekakwitha with Father Charles Faul, pastor.
St. Kateri parish rejoices in canonization
The parish of St. Kateri Tekakwitha packed their Tabb church for a prayer service Oct. 21 to celebrate the canonization of their patron saint.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the patron saint of Native Americans and of ecology, nature and the environment, was canonized along with six other saints at the Vatican Oct. 21. She is the first Native American to be canonized.
“What a wonderful saint you have here,” declared Bishop Emeritus Walter F. Sullivan, who gave the homily at the prayer service at St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
The parish’s pastor, Father Charles Faul, was also enthusiastic.
“This is a special moment for the native peoples of both the United States and Canada,” he said.
“We’ve always honored her (St. Kateri). This is the official seal of approval,” Father Faul said. “Through her canonization by the Holy Father, she can be venerated by the whole church as a saint.”
Being canonized requires two miracles to be performed by the intercession of the sainthood candidate. One miracle credited to St. Kateri’s intercession is the curing a 7-year-old Native American boy with a terminal flesh-eating disease six years ago.
Bishop Sullivan said St. Kateri’s canonization reminds us to be humble and trusting like St. Kateri. Also, noting that St.Kateri often prayed in the woods, Bishop Sullivan said people must care for and respect “nature, the environment and ecology.”
“We are to use God’s handiwork and not to misuse it,” he said.
St. Kateri, also known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York, near Auriesville. The name “Kateri” is the Iroquois translation of her baptismal name of Catherine.
St. Kateri’s father, a Mohawk chief, and her mother, a Christian Algonquin, died of smallpox when St. Kateri was only four. The disease left her partially blind and scarred her physically.
When she was 18, the Jesuit missionary Father de Lamerville came to her village and established a chapel. St. Kateri, who remembered stories her Christian mother had told her, attended religious instruction.
The Jesuits at the time usually reserved baptism of converts until one was on his deathbed, but because St. Kateri “had such a remarkable holiness,” she was baptized at the age of 20, Bishop Sullivan said.
Her village reacted with such hostility to her baptism that in 1677 she left her home to journey more than 200 miles over about two months to the Catholic mission St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal.
“She left her village to devote her life to God, prayer and penitential practice,” Bishop Sullivan said.
She taught children and helped the poor or sick in her village. Through the years, she had resisted marrying, and in 1679, she made a vow of perpetual virginity.
She suffered poor health throughout her life and died at 24 in 1680. Her last words were “Jesus, I love you.”