October 21, 2012
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
“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.
Mother Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha among 7 new saints canonized by Pope Benedict
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Some 80,000 pilgrims in flowered lei, feathered headdresses and other traditional garb flooded St. Peter's Square on Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI added seven more saints onto the roster of Catholic role models in a bid to reinvigorate the faith in parts of the world where it's lagging.
Two of the new saints were Americans: Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the U.S., and Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii.
It seemed as if a third saint, Pedro Calungsod, a 17th century Filipino teenage martyr, drew the biggest crowd of all, with Rome's sizeable Filipino expat community turning out in flag-waving droves to welcome the country's second saint.
In his homily, Benedict praised each of the seven as heroic and courageous examples for the entire church, calling Cope a "shining" model for Catholics and Kateri an inspiration to indigenous faithful across North America.
"May the witness of these new saints ... speak today to the whole church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world," he said.
The celebrations began at dawn, with Native Americans in beaded and feathered headdresses and leather-fringed tunics singing songs to Kateri to the beat of drums as the sun rose over St. Peter's Square.
Later, the crowds cheered as the pope read out the names of each of the new saints in Latin and declared that they were worthy of veneration by the entire church. Prayers were read out in Mohawk and Cebuano, the dialect of Calungsod's native Cebu province, and in English by a nun wearing a lei.
"It's so nice to see God showing all the flavors of the world," marveled Gene Caldwell, a Native American member of the Menominee reservation in Neopit, Wisconsin, who attended with his wife, Linda. "The Native Americans are enthralled" to have Kateri canonized, he said.
The canonization coincided with a Vatican meeting of the world's bishops on trying to revive Christianity in places where it's fallen by the wayside.
Several of the new saints were missionaries, making clear the pope hopes their example - even though they lived hundreds of years ago - will be relevant today as the Catholic Church tries to hold on to its faithful. It's a tough task as the Vatican faces competition from evangelical churches in Africa and Latin America, increasing secularization in the West and disenchantment due to the clerical sex abuse scandal in Europe and beyond.
The two American saints actually hail from roughly the same place - what is today upstate New York - although they lived two centuries apart.
Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks," Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight. She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized Catholic by Jesuit missionaries. But she was ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith, and she died in what is now Canada when she was 24.
Speaking in English and French, in honor of Kateri's Canadian ties, Benedict noted how unusual it was in Kateri's indigenous culture for her to choose to devote herself to her Catholic 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!"
Among the few people chosen to receive Communion from the pope himself was Jake Finkbonner, a 12-year-old boy of Native American descent from the western U.S. state of Washington, whose recovery from an infection of flesh-eating bacteria was deemed "miraculous" by the Vatican. The Vatican determined that Jake was cured through Kateri's intercession after his family and community invoked her in their prayers, paving the way for her canonization.
Cope is revered among many Catholics in Hawaii, where she arrived from New York in 1883 to care for leprosy patients on Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula on Molokai Island where Hawaii governments forcibly exiled them for decades. At the time, there was widespread fear of the disfiguring disease, which can cause skin lesions, mangled fingers and toes and lead to blindness.
Cope, however, led a band of Franciscan nuns to the peninsula to care for the patients, just as Saint Damien, a Belgian priest, did in 1873. He died of the disease 16 years later and was canonized in 2009.
"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."
Two-hundred fifty pilgrims from Hawaii traveled to Rome for Mother Marianne's canonization, including nine Kalaupapa patients, as well as faithful from the local diocese.
"Marianne Cope means a great deal to us," said pilgrim Aida Javier, who traveled from Honolulu with her husband Romy for the Mass. "My husband and I feel blessed and honored to be part of this canonization."
Another pilgrim was Sharon Smith, of Syracuse, New York, whose 2005 cure from complications from pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, was declared medically inexplicable by the Vatican - the "miracle" needed for Mother Marianne to be named a saint. In an interview last week, Smith recounted how she had fainted one day in her home, an allergic reaction to medication she was taking for a kidney transplant, and awoke in the hospital to find that doctors weren't giving her much time to live.
Her disease was eating away at her insides, causing her stomach to detach from her intestines. Doctors said they couldn't repair it. At a certain point, a nun pinned a bag of ashes and dirt from Mother Marianne's grave on her and prayed.
"I had never heard of her, but we continued to pray," Smith said. "And I just, I started getting better."
"I believe in miracles, but I don't know whether it was all the prayers, or the pinning of the relic, but I know that something worked, and I'm here for some reason," Smith said.
The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedure requires that the Vatican certify a "miracle" was performed through the intercession of the candidate - a medically inexplicable cure that can be directly linked to the prayers offered by the faithful. One miracle is needed for beatification, a second for canonization.
The Philippines' second saint, Calungsod, was a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century but was killed by spear-wielding villagers opposed to the missionaries' efforts to baptize their children.
"We are especially proud because he is so young," said Marianna Dieza, a 39-year-old housekeeper working in Rome who was on hand for the Mass.
The other new saints are: Jacques Berthieu, a 19th century French Jesuit who was killed by rebels in Madagascar, where he had worked as a missionary; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian who founded a religious order in 1900 and established a Catholic printing and publishing house in his native Brescia; Carmen Salles y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded a religious order to educate children in 1892; and Anna Schaeffer, a 19th century German lay woman who became a model for the sick and suffering after she fell into a boiler and badly burned her legs. The wounds never healed, causing her constant pain.
By The Associated Press
on October 21, 2012 at 7:15 AM
on October 21, 2012 at 7:15 AM