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Bishop Burbidge Celebrates Mass for Native American Catholic Conference

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Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass Thursday, July 2 for participants of the 70th annual Tekakwitha Conference being held in Raleigh, July 1-4. More than 500 Native American Catholics from throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico are attending the event being held at the Raleigh Convention Center. The Mass was concelebrated by Most Reverend Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver and Episcopal Moderator of the Tekakwitha Conference.

Noting the theme of this year’s conference, With Kateri We Spread God’s Word, Bishop Burbidge pointed to the Gospel of the day where Jesus send forth His disciples to spread God’s word, but to travel lightly. He said Jesus’ message was to help them be effective in their mission. “Basically, Jesus was telling them not to let anything weigh them down or burden them,” the Bishop said, “reminding them that in Him they have everything they need!”

Pointing out that our own limitations and weaknesses can weigh us down, Bishop Burbidge said at times, we may question our worthiness. He pointed out St. Paul’s reminder that “being sent in the name of the Lord is not a privilege we earn or achieve. It is a pure gift.”

The conference is under the patronage of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Native American woman born near Auriesville, New York, to a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief. After a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and young brother and left her badly scarred and vision-impaired, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle at age four.  Influenced by a nearby mission, Tekakwitha sought baptism and on April 5, 1676 was baptized and given the name Kateri. She left her Mohawk village for Sault St. Louis, and on Christmas Day of 1677 she received her first Holy Communion. After a life of chastity devoted to teaching children and caring for the sick and aged, she died on April 17, 1680 at age 24. Her last words were “Iesos konoronkwa”: “Jesus, I love you.”

In his closing, Bishop Burbidge requested that, “Through the intercession of Blessed Kateri, may we let go of the sense of unworthiness and be convinced in the Lord’s power to transform us. And may we be able to say with renewed confidence, ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me!’ With that conviction, with the Lord’s amazing grace and with Kateri, go forth and spread God’s Word. And as you do, be sure to travel lightly!”

A story on the conference and Archbishop Chaput’s homily at a Mass celebrated July 3 will be available on Monday.


Above: New York Kateri Circle during All Nations Grand Entry procession. Blessed Kateri is a native of New York.

Below: Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM, Cap, of Denver, seated center during procession. The Archbishop is a Native American and Episcopal Moderator of the Tekakwitha Conference.