Winnipeg parish celebrates Saint Kateri's canonization
Nearly blind Mohawk woman becomes North America's 1st aboriginal saint
The canonization of Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha as North America's first aboriginal Catholic saint was celebrated Sunday by members of a Winnipeg church that is named after her.
It was standing room only at the Kateri Tekakwitha Parish on Home Street for Sunday morning's service, which took place as Kateri was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
"We're so happy and proud," Elsie Moar, a member of the parish, told CBC News.
"Never in a million years would I ever think that would happen. And I was sitting there today, and I felt so blessed, touched in my heart."
Kateri was born in 1656 in what is now New York state to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was four, during a smallpox epidemic that left her nearly blind and her face badly scarred.
Persecuted for her faith
She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized Catholic by Jesuit missionaries.
But she was ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith, and she died in 1680 while serving the Catholic church in what is now Canada, at the age of 24.
Her body is entombed in a marble shrine at the St. Francis-Xavier Church in Kahnawake, a Montreal-area Mohawk community.
Kateri has since been a symbol of hope for aboriginal people in Canada for centuries.
Her canonization follows what has been determined to be a miracle by the church in the 2006 case of Jake Finkbonner, a five-year-old American boy who came close to death from flesh-eating bacteria.
His family members placed a Kateri Tekakwitha relic on his leg, and they now believe her intercession is responsible for the survival of the boy, now 12.
Jake's cure from the infection was deemed medically inexplicable by the Vatican, the "miracle" needed to propel the 17th-century Mohawk on to sainthood.
"Today was a great day for all aboriginals across Canada," Moar said.
An estimated 2,000 aboriginal people from across Canada and the United States travelled to the Vatican to attend Sunday's canonization mass.