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Welcoming a Saint

Thousands celebrate Kateri at shrines

October 22, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

AURIESVILLE - While Pope Benedict XVI named Kateri Tekakwitha a saint Sunday in Vatican City, thousands gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs to celebrate the first Native American to be named a saint.

Earlier in the day, a crowd celebrated the Lily of the Mohawk at the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda.

For the local shrines, Kateri's sainthood ended years of efforts to have Kateri named a saint.

Article Photos

The Rev. George H. Belgarde speaks from the pulpit with a painting of Kateri Tekakwitha by artist Kevin Gordon alongside him in the coliseum during the Mass of Thanksgiving at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville on Sunday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

"Good afternoon to you all, and to all those somewhere between here and the Thruway," the Rev. George Belgarde of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs joked with the crowd at the coliseum Sunday. He was referring to the many people who got stuck in traffic trying to get to Sunday's event.

Joey Caruso, who was among those attending the Mass at Auriesville, was amazed at the size of Sunday's crowd.

"There is no bishop, no cardinal. [Kateri] did this on her own," he said.

Fact Box


Here are some important facts regarding Kateri Tekakwitha:

Kateri was born in 1656 to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief in the Mohawk village of Canaouaga, which now is Auriesville. Her father was a pagan Iroquois and her mother was Christian.

Kateri's parents and only brother died when she was 4 during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred.

She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized Catholic.

Kateri was ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith, and she fled to Canada.

In 1679, she made a vow of perpetual virginity.

In Canada, Kateri taught prayers to children.

She died April 17, 1680, at age 23 and was buried in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada.

Witnesses reported that within a few minutes of her death, her pock marks vanished. Pope Pius XII in 1943 declared this a miracle.

Kateri was beatified as Catherine Tekakwitha in 1980 by Pope John Paul II.

In 2011, a second miracle involving an ill boy in 2006 was signed by Pope Benedict XVI, paving the way for canonization.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI named Kateri a saint.

Kateri was a Mohawk Indian born in Auriesville and baptized in Fonda.

At the National Kateri Shrine, Franciscan Father Mark Steed was excited about the ceremony at his shrine held earlier Sunday.

"People have been praying for this for a long time," Steed said.

Steed performed a special Catholic Mass. It included a relic of St. Kateri, a gold cross with a fragment of one of her bones in the cross.

"Perhaps at this moment in time, we all need to take a deep breath," Steed said. "Just to say, 'Oh, thank God, it's finally happened.'"

Noreen Brownell of Tribes Hill, has been volunteering at the Kateri shrine her entire life.

"This is wonderful," she said, stating that it was the culmination of Father Kevin Kenny's work. The former shrine director worked tirelessly to bring Kateri to where she stands now as a saint, Brownell said.

Dolores Pennachio of Brooklyn attended the service at the National Kateri Shrine with members of her family. To her, St. Kateri had a profound effect on her life.

"We come up to honor her," Pennachio said. "It was beautiful. We've been up here since yesterday."

At the Mass at Auriesville, Belgarde said, "We are on a good foundation here. The foundation, of course, of faith - faith, of course, of that type that Blessed Kateri, now St. Kateri Tekakwitha, taught us."

The service was a Catholic Mass of Thanksgiving, with several readings from the books of Leviticus, St. John and St. Paul to the Pheonicians.

"It is quite amazing ... that any reading chosen for today would have been applicable with the occasion," Belgarde said to the crowd. "The occasion began a few hours ago, when his holiness said, 'She is a saint.'"

Belgarde spoke about Kateri's life, which he described as "a rich mixture of spiritual joy and constant joy."

Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Mohawk chief and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents died when she was young, and she went to live with her uncle. Kateri was ostracized for her faith, and she went to Canada, where she later died at age 23.

"She was a person of the cross and she was proud of it. She would not yield her position to any, especially those who thought to deny her the cross and continue to follow them," Belgarde said.



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