Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Kateri a saint for everyone
Aboriginal woman inspires local church
Long a presence in Winnipeg's West End, an aboriginal Roman Catholic parish is slowly discovering a new identity after their patron was elevated to sainthood earlier this year.
"We've come a long way and struggled and we've always been a poor parish," explains Joan Molloy, a member of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish.
"I think sometimes in poverty there's shame. Now we don't have to be ashamed anymore."
Molloy was one of several parishioners who travelled to Rome to witness the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha on Oct. 21, 2012. St. Kateri is the first North American aboriginal woman to become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
Born to a Mohawk father and Algonquin mother in 1656 in New York, she was orphaned as a young child, converted to Catholicism as a teenager, and was baptized at age 20. Facing hostility from her tribe for her Christian faith, St. Kateri moved north to Kahnawake, near Montreal, devoting her life to prayer and caring for the sick and elderly. She died in 1680 at the age of 24.
"Kateri is not just for Winnipeg and for Canada," says Rev. Sebastian Maria Susairaj, who has served the only aboriginal Catholic parish in Winnipeg for four years.
"She's for the whole universal church. Now the whole world is claiming her as the model."
Although many Catholics around the world may just now be learning more about this new saint, the story of St. Kateri has always been integral to parishioner Eva Solomon's life. Born in 1943, the same year St. Kateri was venerated, the Catholic sister and Ojibwa woman originally from Killarney, Ont., grew up hearing stories from her mother about the holy woman known as the Lily of the Mohawks.
"We considered her a saint, whether the church did or not," explains the Winnipeg-based Solomon, a member of Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie.
She says St. Kateri blazed a trail in combining traditional aboriginal beliefs and practices with Christianity, something that aboriginal Christians in Canada are still learning to do.
"The aboriginal people who have become Christians are going through the same struggles as the early church," says Solomon, who works on that sort of integration for the Assembly of the Western Catholic Bishops Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.
"We're learning how to be Christian in this dialogue with tradition."
Part of that dialogue means incorporating aboriginal practices into mass, such as the prayer in four directions, drumming and reading Christian texts in Cree and Ojibwa, explains Sebastian.
He says the Kateri parish is unique because it serves aboriginal people from all over Manitoba who travel to Winnipeg for family or medical reasons. Unlike most Catholic parishes, the people of St. Kateri stay for a midday meal and social gathering every Sunday, as well as sharing food and prizes in a weekly raffle, he says.
"Gathering is very important for the First Nations community," says Sebastian, a native of India.
For Solomon, the recognition of the new aboriginal saint marks a resurgence of interest in aboriginal spirituality among the broader church. She says discussions are underway to establish an institute of St. Kateri at a Catholic college to train aboriginals for ministry.
In the past, the Catholic Church has not always made a significant effort to understand aboriginal beliefs and culture, says Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg. For instance, while aboriginal women like Solomon have joined Catholic religious orders, very few, if any aboriginal men have studied for the priesthood. Weisgerber says the Archdiocese of Winnipeg has no priests of aboriginal descent serving its parishes.
"The fact Kateri has been proclaimed as a saint means she could bring together her aboriginal culture and her spirituality," says Weisgerber, who was in Rome for the canonization.
"We still have to figure out how to do that."
The ceremonies in Rome last fall were a beginning, says Molloy, who was surprised to hear cheers and applause from the crowd when St. Kateri's name was called out.
"For a humble person of aboriginal descent, I felt honoured," says Molloy.
"So we were walking tall and walking proud."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2012 J16
Updated on Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 12:57 PM CST: replaces photos, adds fact box
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Photo Store Gallery
Statue installed in new year
A life-size statue of the only aboriginal woman in North America to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church should be installed in Winnipeg in the new year.
Parishioners of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish have already raised about $9,000 of the estimated $13,000 price tag, says Rev. Sebastian Maria Susairaj. That figure includes shipping the statue to Winnipeg and installing it inside their West End church, located at 548 Home St.
Artist Benoit Deschenes, of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Que., has been commissioned to carve the statue, and is using local Algonquin residents as models, says Eva Solomon, a parishioner at St. Kateri.
"St. Kateri's mother came right from the Algonquin people in that area," she says.
She says Tekakwitha will be portrayed barefoot, wearing traditional clothing, including leggings and a shawl.
The statue is scheduled to be completed by February.
Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.
Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.
German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.
Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.
Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).
It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.
When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.
A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.
As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.
Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.
Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.
- Faces of the aboriginal community
- Accounting for the 'sixties scoop'
- Steeped in history
- Roots, resilience, renaissance
- Hurrying hard
Ads by Google