St Kateri, First Native American Saint, Canonized Today

Archibishop Lopez Quintano, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, holds a basket made by Mohawk basketmaker Sheila Ransom that will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI by the Mohawk delegation to the canonization of Kateri Takakwith. To his right in the photo are Alma and Orlo Ransom; to his left are tribal police Detective Matt Rourke and former St. Regis Mohawk Tribe  Chief Wally Oaks.
Indian Country, Gale Courey Toensing

Most people in Oklahoma have Indian blood. 

I know that politically correct types are going to chide me because I didn’t say “Native American,” but I’ve called the Cherokee that flows in my veins Indian blood all my life. There’s also some Potawatomi mixed in there, but I’m not quite sure how. All I know for certain is that I have relatives who are elected officeholders in the Potawatomi tribal government.

My personal family history doesn’t matter except that it explains why I feel proprietary toward one of the new saints that was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI today.

Blessed Kateri Tekawitha is now Saint Kateri Tekawitha. Saint Kateri was a member of the Canadian Mohawk tribe. She suffered greatly for her conversion and faith in Christ, particularly because she refused to marry and took a vow of perpetual virginity. Considering the sexual mores that are foisted on young girls today, St Kateri’s insistence that her sexuality was her own, and that she could chose to NOT have sex seems especially apt.

As you might expect, the Mohawks came out in numbers to celebrate the canonization of their sister. According to an Indian Country article, almost 2,000 Mohawks made the journey to the Vatican for the celebration.

I share their joy. St Kateri, pray for us.

The Indian Country article says in part:

What is likely to be the largest delegation of Mohawk Indians ever to assemble in Rome will take place this weekend, October 20–21, for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk woman.

Almost 2,000 people from Akwesasne and Kahnawake will flock to the Vatican for the ceremony that will grant sainthood to Kateri Tekakwitha, the first indigenous woman of Turtle Island to be canonized by the Catholic Church. The canonization will take place on Sunday.

About 150 people—three busloads—left for the airport a week ago, and others, like Alma and Orlo Ransom and three members of their family, were leaving on Thursday, October 18, for the ancient city.

“The Vatican is topping off what we feel by making her a saint,” Alma Ransom told Indian Country Today Media Network. She has played a critical role in the canonization effort over the years.

“In Indian words she’s been a saint all along to us. When we refer to Kateri [pronounced Ga-da-li in the Mohawk language] we call her a holy person, and I think saints are holy people. We’re very proud and happy,” Ransom said, then added with a laugh, “We’re proud for her because she was so humble and timid—and we’re not!”

She and her husband were in the final stages of preparation for their trip when they were reached at their Akwesasne home.

“Oh, yes, we’re ready!” she said. “Last December when the pope declared that Kateri would be canonized, that was it. And the preparations, of course. We had travel agencies that wouldn’t take us because we didn’t have an exact date, but we have an Indian-owned, Mohawk-owned travel agency that cut to the chase and said it’s going to be this much no matter what, and we’re still with him.”

Read more here.

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  • Kathleen

    Her canonization brings a smile and a prayer. I identified with St. Kateri in seventh grade or so, late ’60s, attending a Catholic school, when I read a biography of her. Her name and mine are derivatives of Katherine, and though my ancestors are Irish, 100%, like many of my friends from the neighborhood back then, and I knew no Indians, she was from somewhere nearby, relatively, Syracuse way. This was Buffalo, my home city.

    The Lily was courage it seemed to me. But I had one problem with her, the same one I had with the Virgin Mary. What’s a virgin? No clue. A different era.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    I’m not Native American, but I too share in the joy all Native Americans must feel. Congratulations. I hope this pulls people of different ethnicities together.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Manny. I have no doubt that it will do exactly that.


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