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FAITHFUL SAY THEIR PRAYERS FOR SAINT AMERICAN INDIAN WOULD BE FIRST.

Byline: Kathleen Sweeney Staff Writer

SAUGUS - Father Michael Slattery touches the feet of the statue each morning before walking into the sanctuary and kneeling before the crucifix.

Like so many in his Saugus parish, and around the country, he prays each day for the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The children at Blessed Kateri Catholic Church say a special prayer and the adult parishioners talk about spiritual favors they've received.

The 17th-century Blessed Kateri needs to be the intercessor in one more miracle before becoming the first American Indian to be declared by the Catholic Church as a saint, according to the Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles.

On Jan. 3, 1943, Pope Piux XII declared her a venerable, noting as miraculous that small pox scars vanished from her face as she died. Then, on June 22, 1980, Pope John Paul II declared her beatified after a hearing-impaired boy in Phoenix heard his doctors speaking moments before he was scheduled to be wheeled into his third surgery to repair his ears.

How and when the power of the Lord comes through Blessed Kateri or others remains mysterious, Slattery said. No one knows why prayers are answered and miracles, which are extraordinary events that medical science cannot explain, are performed.

``It's a mystery that can surface at any period of time,'' Slattery said.

Pope John Paul II added the first Chinese to the roll of saints during a Vatican canonization ceremony last weekend, declaring 120 Chinese Catholics and foreign missionaries to be martyrs who died in the anti-Western, anti-Christian Boxer Rebellion of 110 years ago.

The pope also decreed sainthood for three others, including Philadelphia socialite and philanthropist Katharine Drexel, who died in 1955.

Only those who have proven to be an exemplary instrument of the Lord will be recognized as messengers of miracles and declared saints. A Vatican canonization committee decides whether or not a miracle has been performed.

Before Blessed Kateri's death in 1680, those who knew her and the ones she helped already considered her a saint.

Born in 1656, a mile outside of Auriesville, NY, along the Mohawk River, Blessed Kateri was orphaned at age 4 when smallpox that plagued her village killed her parents and brother, according to church literature.

She escaped death, but the pox scarred her face and left her nearly blind. She went to live with two aunts and an uncle.

After the war ended between the French and Mohawk Indians, the French missionaries brought the Catholic faith to the Mohawks. That's when Kateri learned about Jesus.

At 19, Kateri told Father de Lamberville she wished to be baptized and was on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1676. From then on, she went to the chapel of St. Peter twice a day to assist with Mass.

But not all the Mohawks accepted her Christianity. She was stoned and and abused by drunkards, witch doctors and the enemies of the faith, including her uncle.

Kateri fled with the priest and other Christians to Praying Castle in Canada, the new Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence River.

There, she devoted to life to Jesus and helped others before becoming very ill. On April 17, 1680, as she died, the scars on her face disappeared. She was 24.

Her legend and faith remained strong in the East, until her story eventually moved to the West about 10 years ago, said Eva Walters, president of the City of Angels Kateri Circle.

The group meets once a month to pray for her canonization, Walters said. All the groups from around the country gather once a year for a national convention.

The importance of the canonization of Blessed Kateri is not only because she devoted her life to Jesus, but because she represents people of all ethnic groups.

``It . . . enables us to have a new vision of beauty and dignity in all ethnic groups,'' Slattery said. ``It's beautiful to have an Indian name.''

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The Rev. Michael Slattery hopes to achieve sainthood for Blessed Kateri.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 8, 2000
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