Pope Benedict XVI named seven new saints — two of them American — this weekend amid celebrations in Vatican City.
Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American saint from the United States. The Mohawk woman chose to be baptized by Jesuit missionaries and suffered persecution by her peers for her faith.
“May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are,” Benedict said. “Saint Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America.”
The second American saint, Mother Marianne Cope, was a Franciscan religious sister who ministered to the leprosy colonies in Kalawao and Kalaupapa, Hawaii.
“At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm,” Benedict said in his homily. “She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved St. Francis.”
The canonizations bring the total number of American saints to 12. The first three were Jesuit missionaries who were canonized in 1930.
A group of 250 Hawaiians traveled for the ceremony and donned traditional leis for the celebrations. A group of Catholic Native Americans was also present at the Vatican and said prayers in the traditional Mohawk language after the Pope announced the canonizations.