The sound of drums boomed in the background as Sr. Kateri Mitchell spoke to CNA on Wednesday about the opening of the 71st Annual Tekakwitha Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She described the gathering of nearly 800 Native Americans from around the country as an opportunity for “evangelization” among the tribes.
Sr. Kateri, who is executive director of the conference and is of the Mohawk tribe, also noted that the event is intended to renew efforts in prayer for the canonization cause of the conference's patroness, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
“The vision and the purpose of the conference is that of evangelization among the Native American Catholics and also to promote the canonization of our patroness Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha,” Sr. Kateri said, adding that the event also gathers “people together to learn about one another's cultures because we have so many tribes throughout the country – over 500 tribes – and there are Catholics in many of the tribes.”
The annual event is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico this year and lasts from July 28 – Aug. 1. The conference draws adults and youth of all ages from multiple tribes around the U.S. for a series of workshops, talks, worship, activities and “a lot of prayer time,” Sr. Kateri explained.
“We come together to learn about one another's tribal traditions, our customs, and just to share our rituals, our prayers styles, to share our music, to share our own tribal ways and also seeing one another in our own tribal dresses which are so different and distinct from one another.”
Speakers, presiders, and workshop leaders include a variety Native American Catholic clergy, artists, doctors and teachers. Also attending the gathering is Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Potawatomi tribe, who serves as the Episcopal Moderator of the event.
“The conference gives us opportunity to come together on a spiritual level, to meet once a year, to share all of our traditions and to share ourselves with one another,” Sr. Kateri said. “It just shows how generous our Creator God is to share with a group of people in such a rich way and to have such diversity.”
“The uniqueness of our conference is that it is family oriented,” she added. “We especially try to reach out to our youth.”
Commenting on the canonization process of Bl. Kateri, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, Sr. Kateri said, “we continue to pray – we know that one of the healings or potential miracles is being reviewed and so we keep praying that that will be the first class miracle that's required.”