Native Americans say canonization brings them full circle as Catholics
Published: July 24, 2012
AURIESVILLE, N.Y. (CNS) -- As the sun set on the 73rd annual Tekakwitha Conference at its namesake's birthplace July 21, dozens of pilgrims joined hands and formed a circle, launching a traditional dance symbolic of friendship. It also seemed to represent what many attendees described as a feeling of coming full circle as members of the Catholic family. More than 800 Native American Catholics converged in Albany July 18-22 for four days of workshops, liturgies and pilgrimages to two shrines in other locations in the Albany Diocese -- the birth and baptismal places of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the conference's patroness. She was born and baptized in what is today Auriesville and Fonda, respectively. This year's gathering was scheduled to take place in "Kateri country," as many natives call upstate New York, years before the Vatican approved the final miracle needed to make Blessed Kateri the first member of a North American tribe to become a saint. With the long-anticipated canonization set for October in Rome, conference participants shared their joy over the news, their tales of Blessed Kateri's influence on their lives and their hopes for the future of their people -- a tiny portion of the American population that faces problems with poverty, addiction and depression. They say Blessed Kateri's sainthood is an answer to generations-long prayers and an affirmation of their place in the Church and in the country. "It's going to do a lot to lift up our people, to lift up our spirits," said Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Sister of St. Ann, who is executive director of the Tekakwitha Conference's national office in Great Falls, Mont. "People are just so energized and high-spirited. We feel we belong now, definitely to a stronger degree, to that sacred circle."
Copyright (c) Catholic News Service /U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method, in whole or in part without the prior written authority of Catholic News Service .