Tekakwitha Conference comes on heels of joyous news

posted on August 14, 2012

The 73rd Annual Tekakwitha Conference was held in Albany, NY from July 18-22, 2012. This year’s conference had a special meaning as Blessed Kateri will be canonized (and become Saint Kateri) this year on October 21, 2012 at Vatican City.

The conference is a gathering of Native American and Aboriginal people from Canada and the United States, along with those who minister to them, to come together for prayer, sharing, fellowship, networking, and workshops.

John Apple from Our Lady of Sorrows in Kyle attended the conference for his 10th year. He had this to say about the experience, "It was amazing to be in the actual places where Kateri was born (Auriesville) and baptized (Fonda). The terrain is so beautiful; you could almost imagine the Mohawks from long ago coming out of the woods." He added, "The people from Kateri's tribe are especially proud and excited about her canonization. It was really nice to share this with them."

Blessed Kateri grew up in a village in what is today called New York State. She contracted smallpox 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 a desire for baptism, and was baptized. It was hard to openly practice Catholicism in Kateri’s village, so eventually she fled to a community of Native Catholics near Montreal. There she had her first communion and took a vow of perpetual virginity. She devoted her life to teaching children prayers and caring for the sick and elderly until her death at age 24.

The national office of the Tekakwitha Conference is in Great Falls, Montana. One of the goals of the organization is to unify Native American Catholics while respecting tribal differences. If you are interested in learning more about the history of Blessed Kateri, the person or the organization, visit: http://groups.creighton.edu/tekconf.