CELEBRATING A SAINT — Elders carry a banner of St. Kateri Tekakwitha during a celebration at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert. (Marchildon photo)
Prince Albert marks canonization of St. Kateri
By Madeleine Marchildon
PRINCE ALBERT — On Oct. 11, the day Pope Benedict proclaimed the Year of Faith for all nations, a Teaching Trail celebration took place at St. Michael Parish in Prince Albert. It was the first of nine leading up to the festive gathering of all nations on Oct. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, prepared by the First Nations of Sturgeon Lake in conjunction with a team from the diocese.
Prior to the celebration of the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a diocesan team travelled throughout the diocese. From St. Michael’s Parish, the team moved each day: to Onion Lake, Flying Dust, Moosomin, Red Pheasant, Muskeg Lake, Beardy’s, One Arrow, Sturgeon Lake and finally to Whitefish on Oct. 19. As part of these parish visits, prayer and a PowerPoint of the life of Blessed Kateri were presented.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, some 350 people gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral to view the life of Kateri and the moment of Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration of sainthood in Rome. The celebration opened with a procession led by drums, singing and dancing of the First Nation’s youth and elders in colourful dress. Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., dressed in First Nation vestments and mitre and beaded moccasins, stepped to the beat of the drums.
Thévenot, visibly jubilant, welcomed the First Nations and all nations to honour and thank St. Kateri for being present in our lives today. He explained that she can help us all to be fully active in our faith and share with confidence the gift that we are to each other.
“In my family’s research of my ancestry, we found that my mother’s grandmother was Algonquin. St. Kateri’s mother was also an Algonquin, what a coincidence!” In his homily, Thévenot went on to explain that St. Kateri’s beliefs and strength have touched many. St. Kateri spent much time in the silence of the wilderness finding out who she was and who she was called to be. He said that we, too, are called to go to a place of wilderness and do as she did. “The Creator gives us time to heal. Even if St. Kateri lived 300 years ago, she can be present in our response to God’s mission and call to be united and to move forward.”
The Filipino choir from the cathedral sang throughout the celebration to honour St. Kateri but also for a saint of their heritage as well — St. Pedro, who was also canonized in Rome. Following the prayerful celebration, everyone was invited to share a feast and entertainment. From Sturgeon Lake, Elder Alan Joseph, MC for the evening, said, “Even if St. Kateri left us 300 years ago, she is invited to share and eat with us as well as all those who died before us.” Toward the end of the meal, St. Kateri, played by Marcella Brulé, gave her testimony of her faith and prayer life, her trials and joys as she accepted God’s call to live for Christ. She related her journey from United States to the Canadian Mission of St. Xavier near Montreal.
Joseph and Carol Crowe, a young couple from Prince Albert, had a special interest in the day’s celebration. Carol’s father has a Mohawk father and an Algonquin mother, just as St. Kateri had. As for Joseph, his background is Desaulteaux and Algonquin. He was brought up in the traditional culture and joined the Catholic Church six years ago. He sees many similarities and beauty in both traditions. Seeing Thévenot vested as First Nations was a welcoming surprise. He said, “We all need healing. This celebration for St. Kateri is a step in the right direction. Healing brings us health and then we will have peace.” Carol sees the Native culture as a direct connection to Mother Earth and caring for her. She said, “Recognizing St. Kateri, where she comes from, who she is and the miracles she did is very timely and positive. Our earth is in much jeopardy. Now we have a saint we can pray to for the environment.”
Howard Walker, an elder from Sturgeon Lake, said, “As I stood in the big cathedral today, I experienced harmony. I heard drums, smelled the fragrance of sweetgrass and saw people and heard voices from other parts of the world that share this land and the bounty of Mother Earth. We live in relative peace and are all children of God. We need to honour one another, understand one another and teach our children, not tell them, but to show them that we are one. The church is within us. This celebration is a bridge between cultures and denominations that shows there is only one God that we serve.
Elder Alan Joseph, also from Sturgeon Lake, describes himself as traditionalist and Catholic. “St. Kateri today showed us that we need to work together, we need each other and that we need to forgive. We need to forgive the past because our kids deserve it.”
Waltera Van Gennip, pastoral agent at Sturgeon Lake and co-ordinator of Kateri House in Prince Albert, saw the canonization as an experience of unity that needs to be built on. She said, “It’s the first time for this type of event in our diocese, of coming together and coming of age. I’ve been waiting for 30 years for this to happen.”
Thévenot expressed his deep satisfaction. “It was a joyful day for the First Nations people,” he said.” They will go back full of joy, as I will. May they continue to be holy people like St. Kateri, to be the holy People of God.”