Dettah, N.W.T., church namesake to become saint

The Vatican announced last month it will canonize North America's first aboriginal saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, who is also the namesake of the Roman Catholic Church in Dettah.

Pope Benedict the 16th to canonize Kateri Tekakwitha in May

The Roman Catholic Church in Dettah has been named after Kateri Tekakwitha since the 1950s. (Laura Wright/CBC)
Pope Benedict the 16th will canonize Kateri Tekakwitha this May. The Quebec Mohawk woman died in 1680 when she was 24 years old. Her portrait is shown here in the Dettah Roman Catholic Church. (Laura Wright/CBC)

The Vatican announced last month it will canonize North America’s first aboriginal saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

The community of Dettah, N.W.T., has had a church with her name since the 1950s.

Tekakwitha was a Mohawk from Quebec who died in 1680 when she was just 24. More than three centuries after her death, Pope Benedict the 16th signed the declaration required to make Tekakwitha a saint.

"The people acknowledge that there’s somebody that our church has been named after, somebody who's one of us in a special way," said Jim Lynn, the Dettah church’s lay person.

Community member Berna Martin said the canonization is great news for Dettah.

"I can't believe it, it’s awesome, it’s incredible," she said.

The community plans to change the name of the church from Kateri Tekakwitha Roman Catholic Church to to Saint Kateri Roman Catholic Church, and will celebrate the occasion with a feast and a drum dance.

Tekakwitha will be canonized by Pope Benedict along with six others as early as May 2012.

Believers say Tekakwitha healed many people through prayer. Tekakwitha's tomb is aleady a pilgrimage site on the Mohawk Reserve in Kahnawake near Montreal, Que.

Sainthood is the highest honor in the Catholic Church.