Father Marcos Leon, liaison for Native American Catholics and pastor of St. Ann Church in Clayton, is traveling to Rome for the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, which will take place on Sunday, October 21, 2012. His trip is at the invitation of and sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Black and Indian Mission Office.
Ms. Chris Keffer, chair of a local Kateri Circle and director of faith formation at St. Mary, Mother of the Church in Garner, will make the trip, as well.
“The purpose of the trip, to me, has different connotations,” said Fr. Leon. “Since this is the beginning of the Year of Faith … personally, it’s a nice opportunity to journey to Rome to the Seat of Peter. And because the Native American Community is growing in the Diocese, it’s an opportunity for me to learn more and pray with the world-wide community.”
Fr. Leon will stand in Saint Peter’s Square and witness the sainthood declaration of Kateri Tekakwitha, whom he admires for blending her Native American and Catholic identities into one. “Even though she experienced much struggle and hardship in her life, she never compromised her Catholic identity and her faith in Jesus,” said Fr. Leon-Angulo.
Born in 1656 to a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief, Tekakwitha was badly scarred during a smallpox epidemic that killed her parents and younger brother. She was baptized in 1676 and given the name Kateri. Known to carry a cross in her hands, she taught children and cared for the sick until her death in 1680 at age 24. Her last words were Iesos konoronkwa: “Jesus, I love you.”
During the eight-day trip, Fr. Leon will visit Diocesan seminarians Mr. Timothy Ahn and Mr. Michael Schuetz, who are studying at the Pontifical North American College. He’ll also make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II, whom he admires. And, in memory of Monsignor Thomas Hadden, who died October 8, 2012, Fr. Leon will visit the tomb of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. Also on the itinerary: a visit to the mother house of the Oblates of Saint Joseph, the community of his brother, Father Victor Leon.