By Julie Fish
Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk woman who died over 300 years ago, became Canada’s first aboriginal saint on Sunday.
Lily of the Mohawks, as she was known, was one of seven people canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony in Vatican City.
“With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren,” the Pope said at the canonization mass at St. Peter’s Square.
Tekakwitha, who converted to Catholicism at the age of 20 and moved to the St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, Que., devoting the last years of her life to the Church.
She was shunned by her tribe for partaking in acts such as self-flogging to imitate Jesus’ suffering and for her religious conversion. She died in 1680 at the age of 24.
In order for a person to become a saint, a candidate’s life is scrutinized for evidence of heroic virtue. Information is then sent to the Congregation for Cause of Saints.
If approved, the Pope declares the candidate venerable and a role model of Catholic values. It is followed by beatification which allows a person to be honoured by a group or region.
There must also be at least two posthumous miracles proved and verified by the Vatican before a person can be canonized.
Tekakwitha’s most recent miracle occurred in Washington State in 2006 after a family prayed to her to heal their six year old son who was near death.
The canonization is receiving mixed reactions from the Canada’s aboriginal community.
“There are still trust issues in the community when it comes to community and church relations,” Cheryl Jacobs, aboriginal education program co-ordinator for the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, told Humber News.
The issues stem from allegations in the last century of abuse and sexual assaults at Catholic residential schools.
Canadian aboriginal leader Phil Fontaine received an apology three years ago from Pope Benedict XVI for the abuses.
“We see this as a continuation of the healing process and a significant part of the reconciliation,” Fontaine said at a reception after the canonization mass. “We had an apology in 2009 and now it’s up to each individual to accept this or not.”