Parish News: Parishioners attend Tekawitha Conference

posted on September 7, 2011
by Shannon Grooms, Our Lady of the Sioux Parish

The 72nd annual Tekawitha Conference was held at the Tucson Convention Center, Tucson, AZ from July 20-July 24th, 2011. This year’s theme was “The Grand Canyon State is enriched by Kateri Tekawitha” and was hosted by Tekawitha Circles of Arizona. The conference is a gathering for Native American and Aboriginal people from Canada and the United States; along with those who minister to them, to come together for prayer and workshops.

Blessed Kateri grew up in a village in New York State. She contracted small pox at the age of four which left her scarred, visually impaired, and weak for the remainder of her life. It also left her orphaned as her mother, father, and baby brother died during the epidemic. Eventually, Kateri met a Catholic Priest, expressed an interest in baptism, and was baptized. It was hard to openly practice Catholicism in Kateri’s village, so eventually she fled to a place near Montreal. There she had her first communion and took vows of perpetual virginity. She devoted her life to teaching children prayers and caring for the sick and elderly until her death at age 24.

According to Pine Ridge area Kateri Circles organizer Angie Stover, “There were fifteen people from Pine Ridge Area in attendance this year. The whole trip is a spiritual pilgrimage and the journey is a much as part of the experience as the actual conference. There is so much to gain from a support system of being with “like-minded” people who are experiencing being both Catholic and traditional Native American.”

“As soon as we get home from one year’s conference the fund raising for next year’s conference begins,” explained Angie. “It costs between $800 and $1000 to send a person. There is a sales table at the conference where we sale t-shirts, and this year, tote bags, designed by locals celebrating our Kateri Circle. Other fundraising efforts taking place are a monthly flea market. In addition, there will be an art table at Sacred Heart Church, Pine Ridge, SD August 5th and 6th.

John Apple from Our Lady of Sorrows added, “We have made such great friends over the years at this conference. It is great to see them every year. We side tripped to one attendee’s home at San Carlos Apache Reservation. At the mission there they had a traditional meal, procession, and fireworks in honor of the mission’s anniversary. It was emotional to be there and be a part of it.”

The national office for the Tekawitha Conference is in Great Falls, Montana. One of the goals of the organization is to unify Native American Catholics while respecting tribal differences.

Shannon Grooms is a member of Our Lady of the Sioux Church. She taught Religion at Red Cloud Elementary School for four years until the birth of their oldest daughter. Shannon, her husband, and her two daughters live on a ranch nine miles north of Oglala, South Dakota.