St. Kateri Tekakwitha spent her short life in what is now New York State and Quebec Province, having been introduced to the Catholic faith by French missionaries. But her name is being proudly used for a new shrine in New Mexico, where Spanish friars led many Native Americans to the faith in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The choice of her patronage is not the result of some kind of cultural ignorance, but due to the fact that St. Kateri is patron saint of Native Americans. People like Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, and William McCarthy of the Southwest Indian Foundation believe Native Americans can really use her heavenly intercession right now.
They know they can also use some real practical help as well.
When they thrust shovels into the desert earth outside of Gallup on Sunday to break ground for a major new American shrine, they knew they were well on the way to providing both.
Bishop Wall, Anderson, McCarthy, and Fr. Henry Sands, director of the National Black and Indian Foundation, were joined by tribal representatives at the ceremony to kick off the new Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, to be built on the grounds of the diocesan Sacred Heart Retreat House. The shrine will feature a larger-than-life Rosary walk.
“This Rosary walk will imitate the example of St. Kateri’s life, and we will take advantage of the natural beauty that God offers to us, as the Rosary will wind its way through the beautiful landscape that he’s already given to us,” Bishop Wall told a gathering at Sunday’s groundbreaking. “We will rely on the intercession of Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who we know first appeared to an Indigenous person, that being St. Juan Diego. And so this shrine will be a special place for everyone, but especially to the indigenous people of this land, the Native American peoples of this land.”