Parishioners rejoice at canonization
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski and Tim Yaworski
SASKATOON — Parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon were rejoicing at the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Oct. 21.
Several shared reflections at a diocesan celebration held to mark the historic event, organized by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
“It was just such a beautiful day. This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” said Gayle Weenie, First Nations elder and pastoral associate at Our Lady of Guadalupe, which serves First Nations, Métis, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the heart of Saskatoon.
“Kateri has been somewhat of a hero to me,” said Patricia Gardypie, describing how she learned more about the 17th-century First Nations woman as part of a research paper she wrote in a Native Studies course.
“She achieved inner peace in a time when all her world was changing, and today a lot of women still haven’t found that. So I pray to her to help our women find that inner peace, find the balance, so that we can begin to heal our families again.”
Patricia’s husband Darwin Gardypie agreed that the canonization of St. Kateri will bring healing. “On so many levels, it is such a blessing. For me, new to my Catholic faith again, for Kateri to be named a saint is such a reinforcement.”
In spite of hurt and division caused by a history of colonization, residential schools and genocide, finally healing and reconciliation is happening and can continue, Darwin Gardypie said. “Kateri is not only going to be the catalyst for that change, She is going to be a beacon for many First Nations people to come back to the church,” he said.
A number of Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners also reflected on their participation in a parish pilgrimage this summer to important sites in St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s life — her birthplace in New York and her tomb at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, near Montreal.
“It is so nice to have a Native saint finally,” said Jeanne Ewart, who described the pilgrimage this summer as an eye opener that revealed the suffering St. Kateri Tekakwitha experienced in her life. “As a child she knew what she wanted. She wanted to follow Jesus.”
Gordon Glover said he was impressed with the way that St. Kateri was honoured throughout the churches and the basilicas visited during the summer pilgrimage. “She gives us faith because of the faith that she had in God and in Jesus. We’re honoured to have her as a saint amongst the saints.”
Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York, to a Mohawk chief father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Orphaned in a smallpox epidemic that left her scarred and nearly blind at the age of four, Kateri grew up with a desire to follow Jesus. She was baptized by Jesuit missionaries in 1676, in spite of opposition and persecution.
The young First Nations woman eventually travelled hundreds of kilometres to settle at a Jesuit mission near what is now Montreal, in order to practice her faith and serve God. She died in 1680 at the age of 24, recognized for her holiness, devotion and deep spirituality.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession was recognized by the church in the miraculous healing of a young boy in Washington state in 2006, which finally led to her canonization as a saint of the church.
With the exception of the eight French Jesuits martyred in Canada and the United States in the 17th century, St. Kateri is only the fourth Canadian saint, joining Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), Saint Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771) and Saint André Bessette (1845-1937).
Other saints canonized Oct. 21 were Jacques Berthieu, a French priest martyred in Madagascar in 1896; Mar“a Carmen Sallés y Barangueras of Spain, who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in 1892; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest who died in 1913; Anna Shaffer, a German woman who was bedridden for many years before her death in 1925; and the 17th century martyr Saint Pedro Calungsod of the Philippines.