Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts on today’s canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha

My heart travelled with the Kahnawákeró:non (Mohawks of Kahnawake) to Rome, where the Vatican declared Kateri Tekakwitha a saint this morning, making her the first aboriginal North American person to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  The Grand Chief and Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and an estimated 200 Kahnawákeró:non attended her canonization ceremony along with thousands of other pilgrims.  I celebrated the event closer to home with Jesuit friends at The Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario, a Roman Catholic pilgrim church dedicated to eight early Jesuit missionaries to Canada, but which also has a history of devotion to Blessed Kateri (the former titled bestowed on her after she had passed three of the four steps required for canonization.)  

Saint Kateri died in 1680 at the age of 24.  The above photo shows a sculpture of her by Quebec sculptor Joseph-Émile Brunet at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré near Quebec City.  But her actual physical remains are entombed in a marble shrine at Saint Francis-Xavier Church in Kahnawake, located in the Canadian province of Quebec, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal.  Thus her canonization is expected to bolster interest in Kahnawake as a historic and religious tourist attraction—a development that I sincerely hope will change the community in only positive ways for its inhabitants.  

The canonization of this young native woman interests me for a lot of personal reasons, including the amazing Ojibwe nanny who looked after me when I was small, the friends and colleagues from First Nations I have met since then who have continued to bring so much warmth and humour into my life, and my coverage of the canonization of Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican, by Pope John Paul II for the Toronto Star in 2002.

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