The Story of Kateri – Part I
This story is the story about the
first Native American Saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, canonized October 21, 2012.
She was Mohawk and lived from 1656 to 1680.
My maternal Grandmother, Juana Pecos, was a follower of the Kateri Tekakwitha movement when I was in my mid-teens in the early 1980’s. So I’ve grown up knowing about Kateri Tekakwitha. I remember my grandmother telling us stories of how people who were ill would pray to the Blessed Kateri for healing, they would go to prayer meetings that were held in different parts of the country and some people experienced healing. These were the kinds of miracles that led to her canonization into Sainthood.
When mom was going to Rome with the Tekakwitha group for the canonization ceremony she was inspired to create a clay statue of Kateri from Jemez Pueblo clay to take with her to Rome. She wanted to create a piece that would carry the people’s prayers. When she was near completion of the sculpting of the piece she asked me to go to Jemez to help her with the refining of Kateri’s face, which I did. After she was completed, mom and my Uncle Pat Romero (who also sponsored our wedding so he’s Dad Pat to Althea and I) had a medicine man come to mom’s home and bless Kateri with payers of the breath of Life announcing her given name. She was now blessed with the Spirit of Life. The medicine man told them “I placed prayers for you to have a clear path, from this moment the path you will travel is opened. There will be no blockages for you.” The medicine man prepared prayer feathers that carried prayers for the people, for the earth and all of nature. Dad Pat is also a spiritual leader in Jemez and he also prepared prayer feathers. He carried all of these feathers in his inside pocket of his jacket, close to his heart.
My friend Mike who used to shipped my sculptures created a wood crate for Kateri. Mom and Dad Pat traveled taking Kateri on the plane. Dad Pat was the only one who handled and carried the crate all the way to checking into their rooms in Rome.
When I was visiting with Dad Pat a couple of days ago, looking at these photos he told me “It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. When we were traveling to Rome, it was as though everyone we encountered from checking the crate in to the check-in with customs, it was as though everyone received a memo that we were okay to pass. There were almost no questions asked. When they did ask what was in the wood crate, we told them, and it was as if everyone knew who Kateri was. No one gave us any sort of hard time about anything. Even with all the prayer feathers there were no questions asked. It was just like the medicine man said, there were absolutely no blockages. It was Amazing!”
These are photos of their journey to Rome and how mom’s Kateri made it all the way to the altar where the canonization ceremony took place, and her Kateri now resides there in Rome.
Many different people helped carry Kateri into the Basilica, then mom was the last to carry her to the Altar, she was very emotional. Before the ceremony began, Dad Pat was given permission by one of the Bishops to create an Altar of corn pollen, he placed the prayer feathers on top of the corn pollen Altar, then placed Kateri on top of those feathers. They said they were honored that prayer feathers were brought all way from New Mexico. Only because of again perfect timing, among the thousands and thousands attending mom and Dad Pat found two seats that were only 30 feet from the Altar, “The Pope was so close to us, it was amazing” said Dad Pat. Many native people that traveled from the United States placed their personal items and offerings along side Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to be blessed. Most of these items were retrieved after the blessing and taken home to their families and communities.
It’s amazing to know that mom’s Kateri, a piece I was honored to place my hands on, is now somewhere in the Basilica in Rome. Wow!
After the trip, mom was asked to create another Kateri for the Jemez Pueblo Church.