By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
For Canadian delegation members attending Kateri Tekakwitha’ s canonization, a highlight was meeting the boy who experienced a miracle cure attributed to the new saint.
In a news conference Oct. 21 in Rome after the canonization, the Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer, a Catholic, spoke of meeting Seattle teenager Jake Finkbonner who was miraculously cured of life-threatening flesh-eating disease after a relic of Kateri was placed on his pillow and family and friends pleaded for her intercession. Jake and family participated in the prayer vigil led by the Canadian delegation on Oct. 20.
“It was one of those special moments that I’ll always treasure,” Scheer told journalists.
Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix also mentioned meeting Jake and his family. “With his family and his community, we give thanks to God for his healing, for which there is no medical explanation,” he wrote on Facebook accompanying a photo taken of him with the teen, who hopes to become a plastic surgeon someday.
An estimated 1,500 Canadian pilgrims attended the canonization in St. Peter’s Square, most of them from First Nations and other aboriginal communities. Among the 17 Canadian Bishops were Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and Saint-Jean-Longueuil Bishop Lionel Gendron, the Canadian diocese that includes the Mohawk territory where Blessed Kateri lived and died. Gendron played a key role in organizing Canadian participation in the canonization.
“This is an emotional occasion for all Catholics around the world, especially in the Indigenous community, as a sister of ours is bestowed with the highest honor given by the Catholic Church,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. “Kateri Tekakwitha devoted her life to helping the poor and the sick.”
“She is an inspiration for so many of our people who have gone through difficult times, including many who are still living with the trauma of residential schools,” he said.
“Throughout her short life, Saint Kateri never abandoned her faith,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an Oct. 21 statement. “She taught prayers to children, cared for the sick and the elderly, and often attended mass both at sunrise and sunset.”
“The canonization of Saint Kateri is a great honor and joyous occasion for the many North Americans and Aboriginal peoples who cherish her witness of faith and strength of character. The Government of Canada stands with those who are celebrating her life on this day in Canada, the United States and throughout the world.”
Harper designated Scheer to lead the multi-party Canadian political delegation which included Transport Minister Denis Lebel, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, Conservative and NDP MPs, Members of the Quebec National Assembly and Chiefs from Canadian First Nations communities.
“I think I can safely say for all, it was just a very profound moment to have a Canadian elevated to the sainthood,” said Scheer. “It doesn’t happen all that often.”
“There’s a very profound connection between the First Nations people of Canada and their links to Christianity and the links to the early missions to our country,” Scheer said. “To have that kind of transcendence through the centuries to today in modern-day Canada here in the Vatican, I think it had a very profound effect on everyone who was able to witness first-hand the canonization ceremony.”
“I hope people in Canada really do appreciate the fact that the Holy Father has bestowed this honor on one of our own, on a Canadian, someone who represents such an important figure to both First Nations cultures and Canadians, French and English, all across North America,” the speaker said.