Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
ROME, ITALY Several thousand American Indians are in Rome this weekend for canonization ceremony to be performed Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI that will elevate Kateri Tekakwitha to sainthood.
Archbishop Charles C. Chaput
Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk woman who lived in the 1600s. Introduced to Catholicism by Jesuit missionaries in 1667, she was later baptized and, facing persecution from her people, fled to a Jesuit mission south of Montreal. There she founded an informal association of devout women devoted to penance. She died April 17, 1680.
Most Reverend Archbishop Charles C. Chaput of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. The Archbishop is chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. The Archbishop is in Rome this weekend for the canonization liturgy and graciously took time from his busy schedule to answer questions about Kateri Tekakwitha in an exclusive interview with the Native News Network:
Why is the distinction being bestowed upon her now?
Blessed Kateri is being canonized now because of the demonstrated miracle of healing, which took place recently. For the canonization of any person the Church requires a miracle that can be demonstrated as much as possible scientifically and that miracle was approved just recently.
What is the significance of Kateri Tekakwitha becoming a Catholic saint?
What is significant about Saint Kateri being canonized is the acknowledgment of her personal virtue and also the fact that people from every race and nation are called to be members of the Church and are open to the possibility of extraordinary holiness. She becomes an example of Christian living for all Catholics, but in a unique way, for Native American Catholics in both Canada and the United States.
How do you think the elevation to sainthood of Kateri Tekakwitha will impact the lives of Native Americans?
I think that it's obvious that the American Indian community, and especially the American Indian Catholic community, is very proud of the fact that one of our own has been elevated to the rank of saint in the Catholic Church. It's something we have been praying for, for a very long time. We have in Kateri both a model of Christian living for Indian people, but also an intercessor for us before the throne of God.
How is the Catholic Church in the US going to use the elevation to sainthood of Kateri Tekakwitha the first American Indian saint, going forward?
I don't know that this will be handled any differently than the case of any other saint. There will be a celebration after the first of the year in Washington DC, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which will be in some sense a national celebration of Saint Kateri's canonization. Already, medals and statues have been struck honoring her, as have many prayer cards been printed. The communion of saints is a very large group and her place within it will be celebrated like each and every one of the others.
Is there a plan for a national shrine? Where?
I don't know if there any plans for additional shrines or not. As you know, there are shrines already in Canada and in the United States. The most important of these, of course, is where her body is buried in the province of Quebec.
How can the Life of Kateri Tekakwitha be a guide to improving the lives of Native American people?
Any saint that is held up by the Church for honoring lives a life of virtue that should be imitated by fellow Catholics. Of course, Native Americans, like all other people, both individually and as communities, are strengthened when the membership is virtuous, when the membership lives selflessly in the service of other people, and also with God as the center of life. In some real sense, holiness is wholeness, and we have an example of holiness and wholeness in the life of this wonderful Mohawk woman.
posted October 20, 2012 11:59 am edt