By Chris Miller
Western Catholic Reporter
Parishes in and around Edmonton are planning special celebrations in conjunction with the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the young maiden who, despite objections from her clan, came to know and love Jesus.
Blessed Kateri will be the first aboriginal person to be recognized as a saint. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” she will be canonized Oct. 21 in Rome and named St. Kateri.
A small assembly from Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Parish in Hobbema, including Father Marc Cramer, is going to Rome for the canonization.
St. Joseph’s College at the U of A has planned a celebration for Oct. 19. The celebration will include a First Peoples Mass at 5:30 p.m., with a buffet dinner and a traditional dance to follow. The event will also include drumming, music and crafts.
Since 2006, the women’s residence associated with the college has been called Kateri House.
At St. Joseph Seminary, a new statue of Blessed Kateri was installed Oct. 4, south of Christ the Teacher, with plans underway to have an official blessing ceremony Oct. 28.
Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Enoch is planning an event for Oct. 21, the actual day of the canonization. The celebration will include a 10:30 a.m. Mass, with a blessing of a Kateri statue to follow.
Bishop Gregory Bittman will be present at both the Mass and blessing.
The parish priest in Enoch, Oblate Father Les Kwiatkowski, has experiences that have allowed him to learn about First Nations spirituality and culture.
He immigrated from Poland to Canada in 1990. Since then, he first worked with the Dene people in the Northwest Territories, and then spent 10 years at the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta, before coming to Enoch.
Back in 2008, Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples hosted the North American Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha conference.
Oblate Father Jim Holland said Sacred Heart Parish has not organized any events for the canonization, although he is not ruling out a special celebration to mark the occasion.
One idea is to make available holy cards for everyone who attends Mass at Sacred Heart on Oct. 21. The cards will be small, devotional pictures of Kateri for the use of the faithful, with perhaps a prayer on the reverse side.
“We might get the drummers in and do a drumming song, something like that. I am meeting with a couple of girls from the University of Alberta who want to do something over there at their chapel. We may do something with them as well,” said Holland.
As well, Columbia magazine, a Knights of Columbus publication, printed an informative article about Kateri. The article was reprinted in Sacred Heart’s recent parish bulletin.
“A lot of the natives out here don’t know about her,” said Holland. “We may run that article a couple more times, just so people will be more aware of what’s going on.”
Blessed Kateri Elementary School is located in Edmonton’s Burnewood/Jackson Heights neighbourhood.
Principal Melanie Mazurek said the school will celebrate the canonization on Nov. 8. Father Mike Mireau will lead the celebration, with the hope that the superintendent, Bittman and others will also attend.
Changing the name of the school to St. Kateri is a question that was raised, but at this point the school’s name will remain the same. There is a significant cost to change the name of a school.
“Something will be put on the mural to say St. Kateri, an update to the mural,” said Mazurek. In April, the school finished an $11,000 mural commemorating its patron.
The students learn about Blessed Kateri through the mural, books and annual feast days.