Celebration of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

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Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend Mass at the St. Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York. It was a dual celebration: today is ten years since the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. The celebration on October 9th was held on Indigenous Peoples Weekend, acknowledging the history and legacy of the Native peoples who were already living and thriving in the Americas at the time of Columbus’ landing in what is now the Bahamas.

It was a chilly, fall day with bright blue skies and vibrant, colorful leaves, mostly still waving from their branches. Mass was held outdoors in the pavilion, a roof the only cover from the elements. As mass is celebrated, an occasional breeze flutters in, and really reminds you of Creation and the Creator. I had time before the mass and so I wandered the grounds a bit, spent some quiet time in the candle chapel, contemplated the words of Handsome Lake, an Iroquois Prophet whose words appear in the Peace Grove; I made a small cross from sticks and twine, reminiscent of St. Kateri’s own according to the sign on the table.

But mostly, I simply settled in with a subdued awe in the anticipation of the mass, the quiet celebration of Kateri’s canonization and difficult life that she never shunned from nor complained about. My eyes were drawn constantly to the bright colors of the Native dress, the feathers adorning and the large eagle feathers carried and used for the Mohawk rituals.

Between the Greeting and the Liturgy of the Word was the Sweetgrass Blessing, the burning of plants and herbs, assisted in its smoking by the motion of the eagle feather. We were invited to proceed up, as if for communion to receive the smoke. I felt as though I was part of something bigger, something ancient, and of course, I was, and I felt honored and humbled to be there. The four sacred plants used in Mohawk ceremonies are cedar, tobacco, sweetgrass, and sage.

Throughout the mass whenever hymns or songs were presented they were by the Mohawk Choir of Akwesasne. I couldn’t understand the words but the meaning was clear. Their voices carried on the wind and through the chapel and transported me far away and very near.

Sister Kateri Mitchell, who played a part in the 2006 miracle for St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s elevation to sainthood was there to share the prayer of the faithful and to talk about the miracles associated with the saint. I have met her before and was happy to see her and talk to her briefly on this day.

Following the mass, there was the annual burning of the prayer petitions. The Bishop said the prayer over them and that concluded this remarkable day.

I have found that attending mass in other cultures deepens my own faith and commitment to my own prayer and meditations. I have included some links throughout this post in the hopes that you will read more about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and her people and their journeys.


The Lord's Prayer in the Mohawk Language

Takwaién:a karonhiá:ke tehsí:teronTakwaién:a karonhiá:ke tehsí:teron
Aiesahsén:naien
Aiesawenniióhstake
Aiesawennaráhkhwake nonhwentsiá:ke
Tsi ní:ioht né karoniá:ke tiesawennaráhkhwa
Takwá:nont né kenwénte
Niationnhéhkwen, nia'tewenhniserá:ke
Sasa'nikónr:hen né ionkwarihwané:ren
Tsi ní:ioht ní:'i tsonkwa'nikór:henhs
Bothé:nen ionkhi'nikonhrasksá:tha nón:kwe.
Nok tóhsa aionkwa'shén:ni né karihwané:ren
Akwé:kon é:ren shá:wiht né io'taksens
Asekenh í:se sáwenhk né io'taksens
Asekenh í:se sáwenhk né kanakeráhsera'
Ka'shatstenhsera, kaia'tanehrakwáhtshera
Tsi nienhén:we e'thó naiá:wen

On This Indigenous Peoples Weekend

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I would like to acknowledge the land where I live is the traditional and historic land of the Haudenosaunee, specifically the Mohican [Eng.] or Lenape and the Mohawk, known as Kanienʼkehá꞉ka in the Mohawk language.

The Haudenosaunee have been known in New York as the Iroquois and the Mohawk are the Keepers of the Eastern Door, traditionally guarding the Iroquois Confederation from eastern invasions.

In acknowledging the land I am on, it is an attempt to come to terms with the violent history of the European settlers and immigrants who did not understand the way the Native peoples viewed the land and in many cases simply did not care.

We, and they are the caretakers, not the owners of the land, and it is important to recognize that and move towards the future with respect and compassion while acknowledging our collective past.

I spent today praying at the St. Kateri Shrine. There was Catholic Mass and a celebration of miracles attributed to St. Kateri. This was also in recognition of Indigeneous Peoples Weekend as well as commemorating the tenth anniversary of the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Tomorrow, I will share some photos from that beautiful time. It was full of Mohawk tradition, language, music, and spirituality and grace. It left me in a better place.

Native American Heritage Month

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I want to acknowledge that my family and I live on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee. I grew up knowing them as the Iroquois, which is the French name. Haudenosaunee means People of the Longhouse and they have a rich history in New York State. The map below shows the other tribes traditional to New York. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the oldest, participatory Democracy and our US Constitution is said to be modeled on theirs.

Credit: Aaron Carapella (c)2021

Some links to check out about Native American Heritage Month:

Beyond Each November from First Nations

Native American Heritage Month Information and Activities


I’ve mentioned my affinity for our local saint, Saint Kateri Tekawitha (pronounced “gaderi dega-gwita”). She is the first Native American saint to be canonized. Her official elevation was in 2012 and her most recent miracle was in 2006. St. Kateri was Algonquin on her mother’s side and Mohawk on her father’s.

Since I was going to visit her shrine in Quebec, I wanted to have her chaplet to pray with while I was there. I wasn’t able to acquire it until after so I drew one and used that for my prayer. Here is a photo of both of them:

Chaplet of St. Kateri Tekawitha.
(c)2021