Feast Day: St. Kateri Tekakwitha- July 14

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, whose feast day is July 14 in the US, is the first Native American saint from the territories of the future United States and Canada. She is popularly venerated as a patroness of ecology, so she offers much to our Province’s focus on the survival of the Earth. She is also the patron saint of  Native Americans, First Nations Peoples, and of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Additionally, she is the patron saint of people in exile, people ridiculed for their piety, and of ecologists, and environmentalists.

For Salvatorian Sisters, the Tekakwitha is associated with our long-time health care and education ministry on the Lake Traverse Reservation of the Sissetonwan-Wahpetowan Oyate, the Dakota people. 

From the early days of the reservation, Catholic missionaries (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) were a powerful presence and influence. Today, the small town of Sisseton, South Dakota has two Catholic parishes served by one Native American deacon and one diocesan priest. The parish, established for and with the Catholic Indian Community, was originally named “St. Catherine’s.” In those days, Kateri Tekakwitha was not yet recognized by the institutional Church as a saint. She was clearly known by Indigenous Catholics, though. In fact, many Native parishes borrowed St. Catherine to also represent Kateri. (Kateri is from the French for Catherine!) 

The Bishop of the Sioux Falls Diocese journeyed to Sisseton in 2015 to celebrate the renaming of the parish to “St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish,” the first parish in South Dakota named after her. Today, St. Kateri Parish is a faith community stretching across the reservation. The church building itself, built in the late 1950s, is starting to show significant signs of old age- leaking roof and walls, mold challenges, and heating/cooling bills that suck up most of the parish’s lean budget. 

In the past year, after the easing of Covid restrictions, the parish has begun to see an increase in young families with children, who join their elderly relatives at Sunday Mass. Although non-Catholic/ non-Christian, many tribal families hold funerals, memorials, and celebrations in St. Kateri’s large hall, originally built as an all purpose room capable of supporting the then-popular tribal basketball teams. Today, you’re more apt to see BINGO players than athletes, but repurposing space is something rural parishes have perfected.

Why not read up on St. Kateri Tekakwitha with these two brief articles?

and (scroll down to it- towards the bottom, the sixth article):

The following is a Litany created by the Salvatorian Sisters. It was used as part of the launch of the Kateri Initiative, which is what we call our commitment to ministries of service and presence on the Lake Traverse Reservation. The Kateri Initiative is actually “bigger” than that. It’s purpose is to encourage and develop our Salvatorian Community’s  cross-cultural awareness, effective response to systemic racism, and ability to honor Mother Earth and the Indigenous Peoples upon whose homeland we live and work.

St. Kateri Litany- Sisters of the Divine Savior

For more on the Kateri Initiative, please see the Initiative’s website.

Salvatorians (and those in formation/preparation) can also access more than 20 short (15 min.) training modules with a specific password, available by emailing Sr. Patrice Colletti at pmcsds @ gmail.com.