January 04, 2012

Americans, Canadians spar over Kateri

Whose saint is she anyway? Americans and Canadians spar over Kateri Tekakwitha’s identity

By Jesse McLeanAre those damned Yankees trying to claim a Canadian saint for their own?

With the impending canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17-century Mohawk woman will be among the 12 Americans who have ascended to sainthood.

At least if you ask some south of the border.

Here, we know Tekakwitha as the soon-to-be first Canadian aboriginal saint, who tended to the sick and elderly at Jesuit missions outside Montreal.

Middle-aged Quebeckers may remember reading about her in their Catholic school books. One priest described her as “the protectress of Canada.”

The tiff over which country she belongs to has gone on for more than 100 years.

Known as “Lily of the Mohawks,” Tekakwitha was born in New York.

Her elevation to sainthood is already stirring talk of tourism to the villages of Fonda and Auriesville, where there are shrines dedicated to her. One of the properties houses the archeological site of where she was baptized in 1676.

The California-based website Catholic Online praised Tekakwitha as an “American religious” figure renowned for her “life’s work in rural New York.”

Yet for the deacon of St. Francis Xavier Church in Kahnawake, Que., where Tekakwitha is entombed in a marble shrine, she belongs to neither country. She is a North American native, a healer who walked the Earth before either nation had formed.
Comment:  As the deacon said, it's more correct to say she's a member of neither nation. They didn't exist when she was alive, and if they had, they wouldn't have claimed her as a citizen.

For more on Kateri Tekakwitha, see Kateri Tekakwitha to Become Saint and Vatican Acknowledges Kateri Book.

Below:  "A stained-glass window featuring the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha appears in the chapel of the Newman Centre of Toronto. Though born in what is now New York State, Tekakwitha's most significant religious work was done in Quebec, at least according to Canadian accounts." (Bill Wittman/Toronto Star)

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