Dettah, N.W.T., celebrates first aboriginal saint

Churchgoers in Dettah celebrated Sunday after the namesake of the community's Roman Catholic church was declared a saint by the Vatican.

Vatican declared community church's namesake a saint on Sunday

There renaming ceremony followed by a traditional feast and drum dance at the church in Dettah on Sunday. (Laura Wright/CBC)

A Roman Catholic church in Dettah, N.W.T., was renamed from "Blessed Kateri" to "Saint Kateri" Sunday.

The Vatican declared Kateri Tekakwitha a saint in a canonization ceremony conducted by Pope Benedict XVI. Tekakwitha is now North America’s first aboriginal saint.

The church in Dettah is named after Tekakwitha, a young aboriginal woman who died 300 years ago. Documented cases by Pope John Paul say she was able to heal people through prayer.

Bishop Murray Chatlain lead the mass and rosary in Dettah on Sunday. (Ruby Pigott)

She died in 1680 when she was 24 years old.

About 100 people filed into the small church Sunday afternoon for the rosary. After that, about 200 went to the Chief Drygeese centre for the mass.

Murray Chatlain, the Bishop of the Mackenzie Diocese, led the mass and spoke about Tekakwitha's life. He said he believes she will become a symbol of hope for First Nations people.

"I hope that it helps people recognize the beauty of our own aboriginal people in general and the strength of the people, and I hope that it helps all aboriginal people realize that they have a place in our church," he said.

The mass was followed by a community feast and drum dance.