New Yorkers will join the celebration in Rome on Sunday to celebrate the canonization of a Mohawk Valley woman, and many area residents will be celebrating at home.
Present to see Kateri Tekakwitha and Mother Marianne Cope be canonized will be a contingent from Albany and central New York, plus nearly 100 members of the Syracuse-based Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Mother Marianne’s order. Smaller groups of clergy members from the Buffalo area also will be in Rome, along with a New York City contingent led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard, who said he prayed for Kateri’s canonization as a child, called the trip a “once-in-a-lifetime event” for his parishioners.
“It’s a great day for the diocese and for Native Americans,” he said Tuesday before boarding a bus at a suburban Albany church. “There’s a deep affection people of our diocese have of Kateri Tekakwitha.”
Kateri, known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” will be the first American Indian saint. She was born in 1656 to a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief in a Mohawk village about 30 miles northwest of Albany. Scarred at a young age and made nearly blind by smallpox, she converted to Catholicism and later fled to a French Jesuit mission outside Montreal, where she died at 24 after falling ill.
Locally, the parish hall of St. Thomas the Apostle church in Cherry Valley bears Tekakwitha’s name. On Saturday, St. Mary’s Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church of Cooperstown will honor the new saint at its annual Oktoberfest celebration; on Oct. 28, St. Joseph Church in Worcester will present a talk on Kateri given by Elizabeth “Beth” Lynch of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martys in Auriesville.
The 11 a.m. program is open to the public.
Pamela Bennett, who works in the Albany diocese human resources office, recalled taking trips with her family as a child to visit the Kateri Shrine in Fonda, along the Mohawk River just west of Albany. She said she took on a second job at a supermarket just so she could pay for this week’s trip to Italy.
“I’ve been looking forward to this so much,” she said. “It’s so wonderful that we have someone from New York state and the Albany diocese becoming a saint.”
The sentiment was echoed by another upstate New Yorker, Maureen Maney, a 37-year-old attorney from Syracuse.
“To think these two women who have unique histories and unique contributions to our communities, to have this recognition at the same time, is really exciting for our area,” Maney said in a telephone interview just before boarding her flight to Rome at New York’s JFK Airport.
In December, Pope Benedict XVI approved miracles attributed to Kateri and Mother Marianne, the final step toward sainthood.