NEWS

Lily Of The Mohawks: Kateri Tekakwitha, Canada's First Aboriginal Saint, To Be Celebrated

08/13/2012 12:03 EDT | Updated 10/13/2012 05:12 EDT
Alamy
ST. LAURENT, Sask. - A Roman Catholic church in Saskatchewan is holding a gospel jamboree to celebrate Canada's first aboriginal saint.

Kateri Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk woman who died in 1680. Also known as Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri is considered the patron of ecology, nature, and the environment.

She was born in the United States in what is now New York state and moved to a Mohawk reserve outside Montreal when she was about 20.

Pope Benedict approved her canonization late last year and she is to be sainted Oct. 21 at the Vatican.

Roy Wilmhoff of the Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church on the Sturgeon Lake First Nation says the jamboree on Tuesday and Wednesday will feature prayers, singing and services.

Father Milton McWatch, an Ojibwa Catholic priest from Ontario, is to make an address on Tuesday and lead healing prayers both days.

Each morning is to begin with elders leading prayers and programs. Plans are for gospel music provided by local Cree and Dene joined by Ojibwa singers from Ontario.

“In the Catholic church ... to be recognized as a saint there has to be a miracle or two that the church recognizes,” said Wilmhoff. “She’s the first aboriginal woman in Canada or the United States (to be sainted)."

Kateri was approved for sainthood when the church recognized as a miracle the healing of a five-year-old boy who had flesh-eating disease.

In 2006, a Washington state boy, about five years old, hurt himself while playing basketball. The young boy bumped his chin on the ground and contracted flesh-eating disease.

Doctors removed much of the boy's face, but the disease was unrelenting. They had come to a point where they couldn’t do much more.

Eventually a priest was brought in to anoint the boy for healing purposes. The spiritual leader also spoke with the parish and asked that prayers to Kateri be said for the boy. Many people already believed articles of her clothing had healing powers.

A sister of the parish visited the child with a relic of Kateri’s and told the boy's mother to place it on her son. Both the mother and sister began to pray over the boy.

A short time later, the disease stopped progressing. The boy is now 11 and has had reconstructive surgery.

Kateri was also stricken with illness as a child. The website of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center in the U.S. relates that her village was hit by smallpox when she was four years old. Her parents and baby brother died and Kateri was left scarred, partially blind and forever weakened.

Kateri led a life of prayer and penitence. She taught the young and helped those in the village who were poor or sick. Her favourite devotion was to fashion crosses out of sticks and place them throughout the woods.

Canadian singer Leonard Cohen included her in his 1960s novel "Beautiful Losers." At the centre of the story are three people involved in a love triangle who all have a fascination with Kateri.

(CKOM, The Canadian Press)

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled the saint's first name.