Could Nicholas Black Elk become the Catholic Church’s patron saint of lay catechists? That thought could be on the mind of Pope Francis.
The canonization cause of Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota holy man and Catholic catechist who brought 400 Lakota people into the Catholic Church, is right now being examined by the Vatican. At a July 26 Mass with Lakota traditions celebrated by Bishop Peter Muhich at St. Isaac Jogues parish in Rapid City, South Dakota, the bishop revealed that the positio was not only complete and in the hands of Rome — but Pope Francis was personally interested in the cause.
“This is a wonderful thing: to see a holy soul and to be able to share that story of that person’s life,” the bishop said at the Mass honoring Nicholas Black Elk, urging the faithful to continue their prayers for Black Elk’s intercession and canonization.
The ministry of lay catechist has been on Pope Francis’ mind. The Holy Father formally established the lay ministry of catechist in May with the motu proprio Antiquum Ministerium, where he charged bishops to form and ritually institute laypersons to this ministry.
“The history of evangelization over the past two millennia clearly shows the effectiveness of the mission of catechists,” Pope Francis said. He cited the Second Vatican Council’s “renewed appreciation of the importance of lay involvement in the work of evangelization.”
“The Council Fathers repeatedly emphasized the great need for the lay faithful to be engaged directly, in the various ways their charism can be expressed, in the ‘plantatio Ecclesiae’ and the development of the Christian community,” he said. The Pope added these lay ministers should be “faithful co-workers with priests and deacons, prepared to exercise their ministry wherever it may prove necessary, and motivated by true apostolic enthusiasm.”
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