FORT HALL — Catholics from throughout the region gathered at the Saint Kateri Tekawitha Catholic Church in Fort Hall for mass and the first Feast Day celebration in honor of the recently canonized Saint Kateri Tekawitha.
More than 300 years ago, Kateri lived in what is now the state of New York. Her mother was Catholic and her father a member of the Algonquin tribe.
As a young girl, small pox damaged her eyesight and left her face severely scarred. People taunted and made fun of Kateri but she went on to live a holy life. She was baptized by a Catholic missionary when she was 18. In her short life, she served others by caring for the sick and the elderly; while leading people to the Lord. She fell ill when she was 24 and died with friends at her side who claimed, that at her death, her disfiguring scars disappeared from her face and she appeared glorified.
In 2006, a second miracle related to Kateri is documented when a Catholic nun prayed over a Washington boy, near death, from a flesh eating bacteria with a bone fragment from Kateri’s body. The infection stopped and the boy was cured.
In 1980, Kateri was the first Native American to be beatified and was often called “The Lilly of the Mohawks” or “The Mohawk Maiden.”
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI approved Kateri’s 2006 miracle and on October 12, 2012, he canonized her as a Saint in a special ceremony at the Vatican. Local priest, Father Jose Gonzalez, who is over the Blackfoot and Fort Hall parishes, was in Rome for the canonization.
“We are called to be Saints through the sacrament of baptism,” he said. “Saint Kateri gave her life completely to the service of God. She is an example of humility and purity for all of us to follow. We are following her and honoring her ‘now’ in this little chapel.”
Danny Wadsworth of Fort Hall, who offered traditional Native American smudging/blessings at the celebration, claims Saint Kateri appeared to him at a time in his life when he didn’t yet know who she was.
“She came to me 10 years ago in a sundance; the buffalo moved to the side and she called herself ‘Elk Woman Spirit.’ I didn’t know about her until I saw the sign to the church and then I knew...that was her,” he said. “Call on her [Saint Kateri] and she will help you. She will come anytime you want,” He went on, “Whatever our differences, we all walk the same way and that is toward God...but it has to start with you, within your own temple.”
Father Gonzalez said he hopes that the celebration of Saint Kateri becomes a tradition in Fort Hall.
“This is an exciting time for our community and our little chapel in Fort Hall. I hope that our celebration of Kateri grows and that more people join us each year,” he said.