Kateri Tekakwitha, daughter of a Mohawk war chief and a Christian Algonquin mother, canonized October 21.
Pope Benedict XVI on October 21 canonized seven new saints, including St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, and St. Marianne Cope, also from North America, saying all were examples to the world of “dedication to Christ” and “service to others.”
In a slightly revised canonization rite, the Pope prayed for guidance that the Church would not “err in a matter of such importance” as he used his authority to state that the seven are with God in heaven and can intercede for people on earth. An estimated 80,000 pilgrims from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, Germany and Madagascar filled St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the holy women and men who ministered among their people.
The pilgrims applauded the proclamation of the seven new saints:
—Kateri, an American Indian who was born in the United States and died in Canada in 1680;
—Mother Marianne, a Sister of St. Joseph who traveled from Syracuse, New York, to Hawaii to care for people with Hansen’s disease and died on Molokai in 1918;
—Pedro Calinagos, a teenaged Philippine catechist who was martyred in Guam in 1672;
—French Jesuit Father Jacques Berthieu, martyred in Madagascar in 1896;
—Italian Father Giovanni Battista Piamarta, founder of religious orders, who died in 1913;
—Sister Carmen Salles Barangueras, foundress of a Spanish religious order, who died in 1911; and
—Anna Schaeffer, a lay German woman, who died in 1925.
In his homily at Mass following the canonization, Pope Benedict prayed that the example of the new saints would “speak today to the whole Church” and that their intercession would strengthen the Church in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the world. The Pope also spoke about each new saint individually, highlighting a special characteristic of each for Catholics today.
Pope Benedict called St. Kateri the “protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint,” and he entrusted to her “the renewal of the faith in the First Nations and in all of North America.” The daughter of a Mohawk father and an Algonquin Christian mother, St. Kateri was “faithful to the traditions of her people,” but also faithful to the Christianity she embraced at age 20. “May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are,” the Pope said.
St. Kateri is in some ways “a model of fidelity in the face of persecution,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, himself of Native American background.