Canonization celebrated in Saskatoon
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — The beat of the drum, the spirited movement of dancers, and the joyful praise of the people filled the Cathedral of the Holy Family Oct. 21 at a diocesan celebration marking the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Earlier that day in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI named the young First Nations woman one of seven new saints for the church.
Among the Canadian pilgrims who travelled to Rome for the canonization was Debbie Ledoux, representing the Diocese of Saskatoon as a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which serves First Nations, Métis, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the heart of Saskatoon.
Gayle Weenie, First Nations elder and pastoral associate at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, opened the diocesan celebration at Saskatoon’s new cathedral with words of welcome, and an explanation of some of the First Nations traditions that were part of the mass, including smudging, drumming, praying in the four directions and using a star blanket to hold the gift offering.
“When the late Pope John Paul II came to visit us, he told us that we had permission to use our culture and our language, so that is what we do,” Weenie said.
Bishop Donald Bolen presided at the mass of thanksgiving, concelebrating with Our Lady of Guadalupe priest moderator Rev. Mick Fleming, Msgr. Raymond Senger, and many other priests.
Visiting dignitaries included Vice-Chief Simon Bird of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Councillor Caroline Dagnault of Fishing Lake First Nation, and Robert Doucette, president of Métis Nation Saskatchewan.
“St. Kateri knew what it was to be a disciple of Jesus. She stands as an example of a faithful First Nations woman who pays the price of discipleship, who hears Jesus’ challenge and says: I will follow you wherever you lead,” said Bolen.
“She was known for her piety, for her care of other people,” Bolen described, adding that St. Kateri is also remembered for the simple motto: “Let me know what the will of God is, so that I can do it.”
At her death in 1680 at the age of 24, Kateri Tekakwitha’s last words were “Jesus, I love you,” as recorded by the Jesuit missionaries who wrote about her life, her sufferings and her devotion to God.
Bolen acknowledged the importance of enculturating the Gospel in all traditions, quoting Pope John Paul II: “The Gospel of Jesus speaks all languages, it respects and embraces all cultures,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful thing today that we entered with drumming and with dancers,” added Bolen. “May we continue to receive gifts from each other. May the whole church welcome the gifts that our First Nations and Métis peoples desire to bring, so that we might grow ever closer to Christ.”
At the start of mass, Bolen blessed a statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha that was placed in front of a small teepee near the altar. During the celebration, children brought forward lilies and plants sacred in First Nations tradition.
In addition to traditional First Nations drumming and singing, the choir of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish provided music ministry during the celebration.
At the conclusion of mass, a relic of St. Kateri from the altar of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral was brought forward for prayer and veneration — again enthroned in a small teepee.