Kateri’s Sainthood Celebrated on Bald Hill
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Members of the Blessed Kateri Mission Church celebrated Sunday Mass beneath the cross on Bald Hill overlooking the Hoopa Valley on Sunday, Oct. 21, just hours after Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized as the first Native American saint.
Erma Marshall said, “This is so exciting. We’ve been praying for her sainthood for many years.”
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656. Her father was a Mohawk chief, and her mother was an Algonquin Christian. She was disfigured and partially blinded by a smallpox epidemic which killed her parents when she was a child.
Two miracles have been attributed to her by the Catholic Church, which is a requirement for sainthood.
Reverend Greg Villaescusa said, “For years she was blessed, which is one step below a saint.”
The canonization took place in Rome on Sunday, about 12 hours ahead of the celebration on Bald Hill. It was attended by over 80,000 people.
Denise Ruiz said her brother-in-law, a deacon, was at the ceremony in Rome.
“This is a big thing,” Ruiz said. “Our church is named after her.”
The new sign for the renamed Saint Kateri Mission Church is already in place, courtesy of the Arkley family from Eureka.
Marion Mattz, whose late father was a member of the Blessed Kateri Mission Church, said, “It was absolutely meant to be.”
About 100 people gathered for the local ceremony on Sunday, including Robert Ennis and his daughter Kateri Ennis from Trinidad.
“My daughter was born two weeks early on July 14, which is Blessed Kateri’s feast day,” Robert Ennis said.
Nola White from Hawkins Bar, Phyllis Stockel of Willow Creek, and Rose Bond from Eureka sang a song written in honor of Saint Kateri. Afterwards, Hoopa High School Freshman Yovela Ruiz did a reading from the Bible.
“I’ve been involved with the Church for along time; since I was a baby,” Ruiz said. “This is a first time experience.”
Merris Obie said, “For the Church to recognize Kateri as a saint is a good start at repairing the damage from the boarding school era.”
Villaescusa said that the second miracle attributed to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha happened in 2006.
Jake Finkbonner, a five-year-old Native American from the Lummi Tribe in Washington State, recovered from a flesh-eating bacterial infection after a nun placed a relic of Blessed Kateri on his leg.
“As Catholics, we carry relics,” Villaescusa said, holding up a small object. “We’re going to venerate her relic and seek her intercession for the parish and the people of the community.”