Native Americans feel ‘pulled up’ by Blessed Kateri becoming a saint
BY JOSEPH O’BRIEN
Catholic News Service
LA CROSSE, Wis. (CNS) — Since 1997, Eleanor St. John has lived for the day when one of her greatest heroes would be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church — Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
That year St. John attended her first Tekakwitha Conference, named for the young maiden known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”
Blessed Kateri, the daughter of a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in upstate New York, will be canonized Oct. 21 at the Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI, along with several others. She will become the first Native American saint.
“Immediately after the announcement last December that she would be canonized,” St. John said, “Mass was being celebrated all over the country in celebration. People were crying in gratitude and joy. It makes me a little teary-eyed.”
A parishioner at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral in La Crosse, St. John is a member of the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. She and other pilgrims from the diocese were heading to Rome for the canonization.
“I know she’s the patroness of the environment and ecology, but I call her the saint of Native Americans,” she told The Catholic Times, La Crosse’s diocesan newspaper, in an interview before her departure. “We love her and are so happy she is put up in this different realm because of her sainthood.
“We feel pulled up with it because there’s so much emotion in the history of the different tribes throughout the United States that they’ve had to suffer and go through as the U.S. developed.”
In her own life, St. John said, that Blessed Kateri has inspired a greater love for Jesus and his sacrifice for the world.
“I am definitely encouraged by the faith that she had and her aspiration to be with Jesus and working for him,” she said. “She had a strong devotion to the cross and the suffering Christ made on the cross. I also encourage my daughters to think of her as a role model to help them stay pure and focused on the cross.”
Barbara Swieciak, assistant to La Crosse Bishop William P. Callahan, was also heading to Rome, for the celebration.
A consecrated virgin since 1984, Swieciak said that about 30 years ago she first became acquainted with the Kateri as she was preparing to take her own vows of perpetual virginity. She was encouraged by her spiritual adviser at the time — then-Father Raymond L. Burke — to research the lives of famous virgins, like Kateri. (Cardinal Burke is currently prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature; he’s a former bishop of La Cross and archbishop of St. Louis.)
Blessed Kateri took a private vow of virginity and devoted herself to prayer and to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and elderly.
For her own vocation, Swieciak said, Blessed Kateri’s canonization will make more visible to the world the sort of courage necessary in a world that doesn’t particularly prize purity.
“In her own life,” she said, “Kateri would live a life of purity in the midst of being taunted. She would be walking down the path to the fields, to the chapel or to gather fire wood, and people from the village would throw mud or stones at her, taunting her, ‘Christian, go away!’ Yet she lived among them, treating them with gentleness and faithfulness.”
As a saint, Swieciak said, Blessed Kateri will serve as a more visible role model for consecrated virgins around the country.
“Kateri valued her virginity and the purity of heart for God alone,” she said. “She also valued spending her day in prayer. She’s an example of contemplative prayer though she wasn’t taught it by anyone. It was the power of the Holy Spirit and openness to grace. That was something the Jesuit missionaries were amazed at — what she knew because of the inpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
Because Kateri’s life was full of suffering that she gladly bore for Christ — at age 4 she was disfigured by small pox and her eyesight was impaired — Swieciak also sees in her hero a spiritual kinship.
“I learned from her fidelity when being misunderstood, her fidelity to the truth and the church,” she said. “I saw how many times the ways of the world tested her and her faithfulness through everything impressed me — whether people liked her or didn’t like her. There was a constancy in her life and people could count on her.”
O’Brien is a staff writer at The Catholic Times, newspaper of the La Crosse Diocese.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. October 18, 2012
Public witness on issues of public concern is natural for Catholics because we have a commitment to the common good and to the dignity of each human person. Those two pillars — the common good and the dignity of every human person — come right out of Scripture. They underpin all of Catholic social thought.
That includes politics. Politics is where the competing moral visions of a society meet and struggle. And since a large majority of American citizens are religious believers, it makes sense for people and communities of faith to bring their faith into the public square.
As a result, if we believe that a particular issue is gravely evil and damaging to society, then we have a duty, not just a religious duty but also a democratic duty, to hold accountable the candidates who want to allow that evil. Failing to do so is an abuse of responsibility on our part, because that’s where we exercise our power as citizens most directly — in the voting booth.
The “separation of Church and state” can never mean that religious believers should be silent about legislative issues, the appointment of judges or public policy. It’s not the job of the Church to sponsor political candidates.But it’s very much the job of the Church to guide Catholics to think and act in accord with their faith.
So since this is an election year, here are a few simple points to remember as we move toward November.
1. “Catholic” is a word that has real meaning. We don’t control or invent that meaning as individuals. We inherit it from the Gospel and the experience of the Church over the centuries. If we choose to call ourselves Catholic, then that word has consequences for what we believe and how we act. We can’t truthfully call ourselves “Catholic” and then behave as if we’re not.
2. Being a Catholic is a bit like being married. We have a relationship with the Church and with Jesus Christ that’s similar to being a spouse. If a man says he loves his wife, his wife will want to see the evidence in his fidelity. The same applies to our relationship with God.
If we say we’re Catholic, we need to show that by our love for the Church and our fidelity to what she teaches and believes. Otherwise we’re just fooling ourselves. God certainly won’t be fooled.
3. The Church is not a political organism. She has no interest in partisanship because getting power or running governments is not what she’s about, and the more closely she identifies herself with any single party, the fewer people she can effectively reach.
4. Scripture and Catholic teaching, however, do have public consequences because they guide us in how we should act in relation to one another. Again, Catholic social action, including political action, is a natural byproduct of the Church’s moral message. We can’t call ourselves Catholic, and then simply stand by while immigrants get mistreated, or the poor get robbed, or – even more fundamentally — unborn children get killed. If our faith is real, then it will bear fruit in our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices.
5. Each of us needs to follow his or her own conscience. But conscience doesn’t emerge miraculously from a vacuum. The way we get a healthy conscience is by submitting it to God’s will; and the way we find God’s will is by listening to the counsel of the Church and trying honestly to live in accord with her guidance.
If we find ourselves frequently disagreeing, as Catholics, with the teaching of our own Church on serious matters, then it’s probably not the Church that’s wrong. The problem is much more likely with us.
In the end, the heart of truly faithful citizenship is this: We’re better citizens when we’re more faithful Catholics. The more authentically Catholic we are in our lives, choices, actions and convictions, the more truly we will contribute to the moral and political life of our nation.
Is your gift Hospitality? Are you the type of person who just automatically smiles, greets others and always desires to make others feel welcomed & at home? Would you be willing to lend your natural warmth and friendliess to the parish by serving as a Parish Greeter? If so, please contact Sister Margaret by email: email@example.com or by calling the Rectory at, 215 – 844 – 4126 ext 103
Would you be interested in Altar Serving at Funeral Masses? This could be a great way for you to get involved in the parish and by your presence bring consolation to famiies who are grieving the loss a loved one. Funeral Masses are usually offered at St. Bridget’s at 10 AM and are completed within the hour. If you’re an adult who would like to serve Mass during Funerals, please send me an email at, firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at the Rectory, 215 – 844 – 4126. Thanks, Father Devlin
Cathy Pasymowski, a parishioner at St Basil the Great Kimberton, PA, has End Stage Renal Disease and is looking for a kidney donor for transplant. General guidlines for potential donors are that ehy be under 60 years of age, and in general good health. If you are interested in making such a generous and life-saving donation, please contact Cathy at 610 – 458 – 3470, or email her at email@example.com
I’m happy to announce Father James Flavin has taken up residence at St. Bridget’s Rectory. A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston & a counselor, Father Flavin is currently part of the leadership & care team at St. John Vianney Center located in Downingtown, PA.
SJVC is a mental health care facility operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for priests & religious in need of treatment. While Downingtown is not around the corner from East Falls, Father Flavin wants to live in a Rectory not far from the airport. That’s because a large part of his work also involves traveling around the country to give clergy workshops; as well as traveling to personally accompany a priest or religious in need of inpatient care at SJVC.
I’m not sure how often we’ll see Father Flavin due to his professional commitments and travel schedule but I’m happy to welcome him to St. Bridget’s & I’m sure you are too.
Welcome Father Flavin!
I am pleased to announce Virtus Realty Advisors have been selected to represent St. Bridget Parish as Real Estate Brokers for the rental of our school buildings. Mr. Brendan H. Kelley, a parishioner of St. Bridget; and Mr Ken Kearns will be marketing the former St. Bridget’s School seeking to find a tenant.
We have every confidence that Mr. Kelley and Mr. Kearns will represent St. Bridget’s interests well and will in the near future rent the space available.
We look forward to working with Brendan and Ken. I’ll keep you posted on any updates as they become available.
As I’ve shared with you previously, a committee of St. Bridget’s parishioners has been formed to discuss how to best utilize the school building to be of maximize benefit to the parish. The committee has met at least six times since June, we’ve interviewed several real estate brokers, discussed options and showed the building to one Charter School group who is interested in expanding their programs. As of this date that’s as much as there is to report to you.
Myself, Mrs. Cindy Barton, the parish Business Manager, as well as several members of the parish finance council – after having interviewed several real estate brokers – think we have enough information to decide which broker to hire. Consensus of the group is to find a long-term tenant for the school building. That’s our first choice. However, should someone approach the parish with an offer to buy the buildings (an offer that was too good to refuse) we’d take that offer into consideration. The goal is to do what’s best for the parish.
Here are the facts, the parish is debt due to school related expenses for nearly $400,000. Finding a tenant would give the parish money to start paying down that debt. It would also allow the parish to generate some much-needed income to cover our regular, ongoing, expenses. With only approximately 20% of the parishioners regularly attending Mass on Sundays – and even fewer contributing to the Sunday collection – we, as a parish, need to come up with alternate sources of income. Rental income should provide us with some sorely needed revenue.
Finally, let me say it as clearly as possible, no decision has been made yet concerning an alternate use of the parish school buildings. We’re going to select a real estate broker within the next several weeks. The broker selected will market the buildings seeking to find a tenant for us who will rent the space. When we select a broker, or if any other bit of information should become available, I’ll let you know.