Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Edmonton – Excitement is building in some aboriginal parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha draws closer to canonization.
"I'm excited because I think it's way overdue," says Oblate Father Jim Holland of Edmonton's Sacred Heart Parish. "She will be the first true North American to be canonized."
Pope Benedict has formally recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Kateri, thus paving the way for the canonization of the 17th century "Lily of the Mohawks."
"It's a wonderful moment of grace," said Father Marc Cramer, the pastor of Wetaskiwin and Hobbema. "It's the first North American native woman that will be canonized so it's quite exciting."
Because she is from the East, Blessed Kateri is not well known among native Canadians in the West, said Holland. But that will change once she is canonized.
Blessed Kateri is the young Indian maiden who, despite objections from some in her own clan, came to know and love Christ.
Before a date is set for her canonization, there must be an "ordinary public consistory," a formal ceremony, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope's decision to create new saints.
During a meeting Dec. 19 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope signed the decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the canonizations of Blessed Kateri and six other people.
There is a five-foot carving as well as a painting of Blessed Kateri in Sacred Heart Church.
"(Her canonization) will be an exciting time, especially for aboriginal people in North America," Holland said. "Personally I think it'll give native people a role model and will show them that the Church is open to everyone."
Cramer said he and the parish council at Hobbema are talking about what do to celebrate the impending canonization of Blessed Kateri.
And he said when Kateri is canonized he'll definitely send somebody to Rome for the canonization ceremony.
"This is an exciting moment for us. She is a young person so it's a good opportunity for the young people of Hobbema to have a role model and someone who is being canonized," Cramer said.
"I think it'll be an opportunity to tell the story of her and what happened to her. I think it'll be great."
Blessed Kateri was born in 1656 in a village on the Mohawk River called Ossernenon, now Auriesville, N.Y. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Christian Algonquin raised among the French.
When Kateri was four, a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and baby brother. Kateri survived, but her face was disfigured and her eyesight impaired.
She died in 1680 at the age of 24. Eyewitnesses, including two Jesuits and many Indians, said the scars on her face suddenly disappeared after her death.
Her tomb is in Caughnawaga, Quebec. There is a shrine dedicated to her in St. Francis Xavier Church there.
Soon after Blessed Kateri died, Catholics started to claim that favours and miracles had been obtained through her intercession. First Nations people have made appeals for recognition of her sanctity since at least the late 1800s.
Kateri, who was beatified in 1980, is listed as patron of North American aboriginal people, ecology and the environment, and is held up as a model for Catholic youths.