Saturday, September 15, 2012

Alaskans moved by Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha gathering

From left, Anchorage resident Angela Moore joins Rose Miller earlier this year in holding the relic of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha that will be given to Pope Benedict XVI in October for her canonization. — Submitted photo



In July I traveled with about 10 pilgrims from the Anchorage area to New York to attend the 73rd annual Tekakwitha Conference in honor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The conference of about 900 people included a large number of Native American Catholics. Tribes from across America traveled to New York to walk in Blessed Kateri’s footsteps — to walk on holy ground.

The weather was hot for us Alaskans but we enjoyed witnessing the very land where this soon-to-be saint lived.

Pilgrims participated in sunrise services where we prayed in the traditional Mohawk manner by thanking God in each of the four directions of the earth for all his blessings.

One such blessing, which many of our Alaskan pilgrims could thank God for, was the opportunity to view a holy relic of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The conference has a traveling relic of Blessed Kateri, which was carried the first day of the conference during the “Grand Entrance” by Jake Finkbonner, the young boy who was healed through Kateri’s intercession. Both he and his family were seen throughout the conference participating in prayers and services.

But this wasn’t the only blessing. Pilgrims also had the grace to see another relic, one that will be presented to the pope in Rome this October during Blessed Kateri’s canonization.

This special relic was stationed for viewing on a very simple and humble table. It was said that this relic is a piece of bone from Kateri’s wrist. A seminarian guarded the relic while allowing pilgrims to view it and even hold it.

Another relic resided inside the large church at the birthplace of Blessed Kateri. Many prayers are placed before it.

Throughout the conference, Masses were celebrated with bishops and priests. At the beginning of these liturgies the procession was led first by two Native American men, dressed in traditional Mohawk regalia. They sang beautifully in their Mohawk language and beat the large drum they carried together while the altar severs, deacons, priests and bishops followed behind. At one Mass the bishops were presented with traditional handmade baskets, woven by local Mohawk people. Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler was one of the bishops who received these beautiful baskets.

Some of us Alaska pilgrims also traveled in a small group into Kahanwake, Canada, where we stood before the tomb of this holy Native American woman. A private Mass was celebrated inside St. Francis Xavier Church where Blessed Kateri is buried. After Mass we prayed before and touched the tomb of Blessed Kateri — giving our own prayers and petitions of the heart to this holy Native American woman.

The writer is a parishioner at St. Michael Church in Palmer.

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