|This article was courtesy of the Syracuse Herald, and Syracuse Post-Standard|
By MELANIE GLEAVES-HIRSCH
The Post-Standard – September 14, 1998
More than 300 years after her death, Roman Catholics the world over still turn to a 17th-century Mohawk woman who died during Holy Week in 1680, whispering “Iesos Konoronkwa – Jesus, I love you.”
Catholics, especially Native American Catholics, pray to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in times of fear, challenge, even hope. “Kateri, see me through, the faithful pray to the woman they believe will be Rome’s first Native American Saint.
Now, Central New Yorkers pushing for the Vatican to declare Kateri a saint say they felt her presence during the Labor Day storm. A life-size statue of Kateri made it through Monday’s savage winds unscathed, even though a huge tree fell within feet of the workshop that temporarily houses it.
“WE BELIEVE it was a miracle on Kateri’s part, because it – and the statue here at St. Lucy’s – was untouched during the storm,” said Emily Garrow of Syracuse, a longtime member of the storm-ravaged St. Lucy’s Church on Gifford Street.
Garrow is the unpaid executive director of the Kateri Tekakwitha Committee at St. Lucy’s, a nonprofit group that evangelizes among Native Americans and promotes Kateri for sainthood.
In the days preceding the Labor Day storm, Kateri committee members Patricia Whyland of Camillus and her sister, Mary George of Camillus, were painting the 5 foot statue from Italy, a gift of longtime benefactors. Whyland stored it in a workshop at her home at 303 Melrose Ave., Camillus.
During the storm, a large evergreen tree on George’s nearby property toppled over, narrowly missing the workshop housing the fiberglass statue, Garrow said. The tree fell in a narrow corridor on about the width of three men standing side-by-side, she said. A beloved statue of Kateri in the sanctuary of St. Lucy’s Church – which lost its steeple and sustained other heavy damage in the storm – also was unharmed, Garrow said.
The daughter of Christian Algonquin mother and a non-Christian Mohawk chief, Kateri Tekakwitha (pronounced Gah-da-LEE Dey-guh-DWEE-ta) was born on the south bank of the Mohawk River in a village known as Ossernenon.
As a young woman, Kateri confided to a priest that she wanted to be baptized. She was so devoted to her faith she pledged a vow of perpetual virginity, alienating fellow Native Americans who hoped she’d marry. She spent what remained of her short life caring for the sick and teaching prayers to children until she died of illness at the age of 24.
KATERI HAS been beatified, or declared blessed, by the Vatican- the first step to sainthood in the 1 billion-member Roman Catholic Church.
The donated statue from Italy, given by donors who wish to remain anonymous, depicts the devout Kateri in a traditional woodland setting, holding a cross, Garrow said. After it is painted and restored, members of St. Lucy’s committee will install it in St. Lucy’s Kateri Chapel in a special service next spring.
The faithful already have the first of two miracles required by the Vatican. Prayers to Kateri are said to have made a deaf boy hear. Vatican officials are now assessing evidence of a possible second miracle, Garrow said.
It involved a young boy who regained sight after one eye was badly injured and doctors wanted to remove the eye, Garrow said. The presentation of the possible miracle to the Vatican is the most encouragement the group has had “in quite awhile,” Garrow said.