Kateri Tekakwitha Patronne de JMJ - Journées mondiales des jeunes
Lily of the Mohawks
Montréal, Québec, Canada, 21 July 2002
Kateri Tekakwitha, patroness of JMJ - World Youth Day
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, young Native American from Canada who converted to catholicism in the 17th century, will be one of the patronesses of the World Youth Day to be held from the 23 through 28 July in Toronto, and her faithful followers are counting on taking advante of the occasion to convince the Pope to canonize her a Saint.
At Kahnawaké, the Indian reservation south of Montréal where her relics are exposed, she is called the "Lily of the Mohawks".
Hundres of faithful followers come each year to a little chapel on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river to ask favors of this young woman with long braided brown hair, born in 1656 of an Algonquin mother and an Iroquois father who was a Mohawk chief.
The story of Kateri Tekakwitha, reported through scraps of conversation in the archives of the era, is of legendary value.
Orphaned at four years old and nearly blind, she discovered catholicism through the Jesuit missionaries of New France. Very quickly, she left a vivid impression upon them by her complete devotion to Jesus Christ, despite the hostility to the christian faith by those around her.
When she died because of smallpox in 1680, at the age of 24 years, the scars left by the disease on her face disappeared miraculously.
"Kateri, immediately after her death, began to perform miracles and she was the object of devotion ever since", stated Father Jacques Bruyère from the Saint Francis-Xavier Mission in Kahanwake.
Yet, right up to the present, Kateri Tekakwitha has no miracle authenticated by the Church on her behalf, a great handicap for her canonization according to the Vatican rules.
After her beatification by Jean-Paul II in 1980, her devotees were counting on the sovereign Pontif to raise the young Amerindian to the rank of Saint during the World Youth Days in Toronto and they sent a letter to the Vatican two months ago in this regard.
"The pope aswered us that he accepted our arguments, but it was not possible during the World Youth Days", related a dejected Father Bruyère.
During the Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference, it was noted that "it will happen one day", "One knows that things like this take time" noted the conference spokeperson, William Kokesch.
Without benefit of canonization, Kateri Tekakwitha will be the only Canadian among the nine young saints and blessed (persons who have been beatified) held by the pope to serve as sponsors of the JMJ - World Youth Day.
She will be the star of a musical comedy, Kateri and the Martyrs of Canada, with riders and traditional native dancers.
Blessed Kateri "is the incarnation of the Indian Image of Mother Earth" stated the director, Frenchman Daniel Facérias. According to him, "her faith was not at all western" but more "an interior and spiritual rapport with nature".
The young Native American is surely considered as the patronesse of human ecology and her feast day is celebrated on July 14.
Father Jacques Bruyère, who is caretaker of her relics, is hoping that "the JMJ - World Youth Day - will carry out an extraordinary publicity for Kateri" that would allow the Pope to canonize her "while he still has time", an allusion to the fragile health of the pope.
With a different pope, Father Bruyère believes that all the sensitive work for canonization would have to be redone. And Jean Paul II has shown that he is rather generous in this area during 24 years of his papacy because he canonized 462 of the 758 saints in the Catholic Church.
Translated by Norm Léveillée