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October 21, 2012

First Native American Saint

Msgr. Lenz Vice Postulator For Canonization
of First Native American Saint 

By Kim Metzgar
Saint Vincent Archabbey Public Relations

For nearly half his life, and 
more than thirty of his sixty-plus 
years as a priest, Msgr. Paul A. 
Lenz, C’46 S’49 D’95, has been 
involved in ministry and advocating for Native Americans. Thus, 
February 18 of this year was one 
of joy, excitement, and celebration, when Msgr. Lenz received 
word that Pope Benedict XVI 
announced that Blessed Kateri 
Tekakwitha will become the first 
Native American saint of the 
Roman Catholic Church on October 21, 2012.
“The response has been 
unbelievable,” he said two days 
after the news was announced. 
“I just cannot believe it. Everyone I have spoken to is so 
excited, both Catholic Indians 
and non-Catholic Indians. My 
phone has been ringing off the 
Although he has been retired 
as Director of the National 
Black and Indian Mission Office 
in Washington, D.C. since 
2009, Msgr. Lenz has not been 
idle, continuing to serve as vice 
postulator for Blessed Kateri’s 
beatification cause. The coming 
months will not be idle either, 
as he will be involved with the 
liturgy the day of the canonization, and planning for the day. 
“She is the first Native American to be presented for sainthood,” said Msgr. Lenz. “She 
was born in 1656 near what 
is now Allegany, New York, and 
was known to be very holy. Hundreds of books and articles 
have been written about her.”
Kateri was known for her 

chastity and holiness before 
she died at age 24. She was 
beatified by Blessed John Paul 
II in 1980. The committee Msgr. 
Lenz served on submitted its 
documentation to the Vatican in 
September of 2009, and review 
of the documentation was then 
underlying tissue. 
“He was in the hospital 
for several months, and he 
required constant treatment,” 
Msgr. Lenz said. “At one point 
there was a team of 26 doctors 
working on his case.”
Father Tim Sauer, a family 
friend, told the boy’s parents to 
pray to Blessed Kateri. She was 
Msgr. Paul Lenz
The medical committee unanimously affirmed that a miracle 
had occurred, Msgr. Lenz said. 
That story involved a boy of six, 
Jacob Finkbonner, a member 
of the Lummi Nation from Bellingham, Washington, who was 
infected with necrotizing fascitis, a bacterial infection that 
can destroy muscle, skin, and 
known for teaching prayers to 
children and working with the 
elderly and sick. As a child her 
face had been badly scarred 
and her eyesight impaired by 
smallpox, a disease that killed 
her parents and brother. Due 
to the smallpox, she had pockmarks all over her face. 
“Maybe Blessed Kateri in 
heaven wanted a miracle for a 
young person who had scars 
from a similar affliction,” said 
Msgr. Lenz, noting that Blessed 
Kateri also had a great devotion 
to the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
The doctors told the Finkbonner family almost every 
night that they did not think 
Jake would live until the next 
morning, Msgr. Lenz said. The 
doctors, he added, also commented that it was not within 
their medical ability or modern 
medicine as it stands now that 
Jacob was kept alive for over 
two months, supporting the 
claim that his survival was a 
Not expected to live, and 
with severe scarring and infection throughout his facial area, 
the family continued praying to 
Blessed Kateri Takakwitha, and 
Jake survived. He required subsequent treatment for damage 
to his face, and has much scarring. The boy, Msgr. Lenz said, 
will be the first to receive communion from Pope Benedict XVI 
during the canonization Mass.

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