SASKATOON — A procession of prayer and song in the heart of Saskatoon was held April 17 to mark St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s feast day.
Organized by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the procession with the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha started at Guadalupe House on Avenue J, continued to St. Mary’s Parish on 20th St., and returned past St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on Avenue M before ending at Guadalupe House, where a soup and bannock supper concluded the celebration.
Parish life director Debbie Ledoux, Deacon Paul Labelle, Rev. Graham Hill, CSsR, and elder Gayle Weenie were among those leading the procession. Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon was also in attendance.
“Loving God, we celebrate St. Kateri Tekakwitha, ‘Lily of the Mohawks,’ as one of your son’s most faithful followers,” prayed Hill. “Help us to turn away all evil and walk in her footsteps, sharing our love and concern with others.”
St. Kateri was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York, to a Mohawk chief father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Orphaned in a smallpox epidemic that left her scarred and nearly blind at the age of four, Kateri grew up with a strong desire to follow Jesus. Jesuit missionaries baptized her in 1676, in spite of opposition and persecution.
The young First Nations woman eventually travelled hundreds of kilometres to settle at a Jesuit mission near what is now Montreal, in order to practice her faith and serve God. She died on April 17, 1680, at the age of 24, recognized for her holiness, devotion and deep spirituality.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession was recognized by the church in the miraculous healing of a young boy in Washington state in 2006, which finally led to her canonization by Pope Benedict XVI as a saint of the church on Oct. 21, 2012.
She is the first indigenous woman in North America to be named a saint. Her feast day is celebrated April 17 in Canada, and July 14 in the United States. She is the patron of ecology and the environment, people living in exile, and Native Americans.