CALAIS, Maine — Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, soon to be St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, has planned a series of events leading up to the canonization on Oct. 21 of the first Native American by Pope Benedict XVI In Rome.
Blessed Kateri, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born in 1656, in modern-day upstate New York, to a Mohawk war chief and a Christian Algonquin mother, according to a press release issued by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Her village was struck by smallpox when she 4 years old, leaving her orphaned.
Even though the child was cared for by an uncle deeply opposed to
Christianity, she devoted her life to God, the press release said. At age 20, Blessed Kateri was baptized by a Jesuit missionary.
She lived a life of virtue and prayer, never wavering in her faith despite being ostracized for it. After receiving threats, she undertook a long canoe journey to an Algonquin Catholic Mission along the St. Lawrence River in what is now Montreal, Quebec. There, she taught prayers to children and cared for the elderly and sick.
Blessed Kateri was known for her great devotion to the Eucharist and to the Cross of Christ. She became ill and died in 1680, just short of her 24th birthday. After her death, the Jesuit priests who documented her life and others said they saw miraculous signs, according to a New York Times article published earlier this year. The pockmarks on her body disappeared, they said. Prayers seeking her assistance were followed by healing.
Catholics have been asking that she be made a saint since the 1880s, the New York Times said. About 100 years later, the Vatican recorded the first miracle attributed to her intercession.
“Last year, the Vatican credited her with aiding in the healing of a flesh-eating infection in an American Indian boy in Washington State, the second miracle that was required for canonization,” the article said.
Blessed Kateri is revered by many Indian tribes, including members of the Passamaquoddy Nation, according to the Portland diocese. There is a shrine to her at St. Ann Church on Pleasant Point. When several Washington County parishes merged in 2008 to form a new entity, it was named for her.
Activities leading up to Blessed Kateri’s canonization include a series of outdoor prayer gatherings, with a presentation of her life, and the re-enactment of a crucial journey Blessed Kateri took by canoe.
The outdoor gatherings will recall the times that Blessed Kateri spent
in her own little “shrines” in the woods praying the rosary and praising God for the beauty of creation, according to the press release. They will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at St. Croix Island International Park; 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Memorial Park in Baileyville; 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at “the Pit” at Peter Dana Point; and at noon Sunday, Oct. 7, at “Split Rock” in Sipayik.
On Sunday, Sept. 23, parishioners will memorialize Blessed Kateri’s canoe journey by inviting those interested and able to take a canoe, kayak, or motorboat to Gordon Island, off Peter Dana Point, where an outdoor Mass will be celebrated. During the Mass, prayers will be offered for members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who died from the smallpox epidemic in the mid-1800s, especially for those members buried on the island. The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 30.
On Sunday, Oct. 7, the parish will present a play showing key moments in Blessed Kateri’s life. Performances will be at 4 and 7 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church in Calais.
For information, contact Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, 454-0680.