The first Native American saint will be canonized in the Vatican, and Orange County Catholics and the Juaneño Band Of Mission Indians will celebrate it with a special mass Sunday, 11 a.m., at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.
During the service, the Juaneño Indians will participate in a grand procession, sacred directions, gift bearing, traditional songs and readings of the mass.
“This is important,” said Jerry Nieblas, an active member of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians. “The first Native American is going to be canonized in Rome (Sunday). This is a real precious moment for us to have one of our own become a saint.”
As locals celebrate with a mass in San Juan Capistrano, the Orange County-based Juaneños will have their first Roman Catholic Priest attend Sunday’s canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha at the Vatican.
Juaneño Priest James Nieblas of the Salesian order of St. John Bosco will be in Rome to witness the historic ceremony.
Tekakwitha, known as Lily of the Mohawks, was born in 1656 in the New York area. She was 4-years-old when she lost her family and much of her eyesight to smallpox, earning her the name Tekakwitha, which means "she who bumps into things," according to the national shrine in her honor. She converted to Christianity despite bitter opposition from her tribe.
She was 23-years-old when she died and, according to the Catholic Church, witnesses watched her smallpox scars disappear in the moments after her death. Since her death, believers have prayed to her for healing, and the church attributes several miracles to her including the 2006 recovery of a young boy in Washington state who recovered from a near-deadly case of flesh-eating bacteria after his parents and locals prayed to Tekakwitha.
For several years now, Juaneños have been praying in her name at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, where a statue was erected in her honor, said Jerry Nieblas.
Sunday’s service will feature Juaneño tradition blended into the Roman Catholic mass, he said. "This is a very special day in which we are going to celebrate and renew ourselves.”
The Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano is at 31522 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.