St. Kateri Church celebrates confirmation, first communion and dedication of saintly statue

April 30, 2013

Archbishop James Weisgerber performs the smudging ritual at the installation of the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha at the Winnipeg church named for her April 17.

By James Buchok

The first celebration in history of the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha April 17 brought confirmations, first communions and the installation of a statue of the first North American aboriginal saint to the Winnipeg church named for her.

Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber said when people speak of saints they seem "other wordly" but he reminded all that Kateri was "a real person, just like we are" and she made difficult decisions to leave her home and follow Jesus. These were choices "very much like all of us have to make," Weisgerber said, "we all have to struggle to do what we can, but in the middle of all this God does not abandon us."

Weisgerber advised the 20 confirmands that for their journeys through life they need two things. "We need to know who we are and be happy with who we are, and we need to know that God delights in us and God doesn't want us to be anything but what we are.

Everyone of us is unique, individual and special and everyone of us has been chosen by God. Unless we know who we are and delight in who we are we're never going to get anywhere. We're not created just for ourselves. We need to understand that our differences, men, women, aboriginal, non-aborigional, are gifts. So the journey we take is a rich journey."

Weisgerber said people tend to see differences as a threat. "We want everyone to be the same," he said. "What would a garden be like if all the flowers were red?"

The archbishop spoke of the approaching Sunday of Pentecost, commemorating the descent of the holy spirit upon the apostles. In the same way, he said, " the spirit is given to us so that we can accept the differences."

"The gift of confirmation anoints you the same way Jesus was anointed and for the same purpose," Weisgerber said, "to be people of peace and love and most of all that you can learn who you are and when you learn who you are you can be somebody for others."

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born in 1656 in present-day upper state New York. As a child she survived a smallpox outbreak but her parents and baby brother did not and she was raised by an aunt and uncle. When she was 11 she met Jesuit missionaries and while her uncle intended for her to marry "she wanted to know more and more abourt Jesus," Weisgerber said. Tekakwitha professed a vow of virginity and was shunned by her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism. She was baptized as a Roman Catholic and settled for the last years of her life at the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in what was then New France. She died in 1680. A number of miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.

The life-size wooden statute of St. Kateri was created by sculpture Benoi Deschênes of Saint-Jean Port-Joli, Qué.

Kateri church trustee Paul Molloy initiated a new tradition for the church that will have visitors from far and wide bring a stone to place at St. Kateri's feet, "so you will always be here and so will your community."

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