Local Catholics attend Native American Tekakwitha Conference

Several representatives from the Diocese of Charleston attended the 72nd annual Tekakwitha Conference in Tucson, Ariz., recently.
Mary Louise Worthy, vice chief of the Lower Eastern Cherokee, said it was her first time, but from now on she plans to go every year.
“The conference was great mostly because it was a renewal of your faith,” Worthy said.
Worthy, a member of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, said bishops, priests, brothers and sisters all took part in the event.
The conference covered subjects such as healing, solidarity, and spiritual elements of the faith. One of the highlights for her was the celebration of Mass in which all the tribes participated. She said hearing them speak their native language was very moving.
The four-day event also included a multitude of workshops and social opportunities for youth and adults.
Kathleen Merritt, director of the office of ethnic ministries, said diocesan figures showed 164 Catholic Native Americans as of 2009.
She noted that this is not an exact count as several members of the Kateri Circle at Our Lady of the Rosary Church were not included in the survey.
Census figures show that the number of Catholic Native Americans is increasing, with a jump of 18.4 percent nationally.
Although the numbers are small in South Carolina at .4 percent, outreach is an important and rewarding ministry, Merritt said.
“Kateri Circles allow healing and spiritual growth for many wounds that still exist among our Native American brothers and sisters,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Worthy said one of her goals is to help educate others about Native Americans and their beliefs, saying that many still consider them to be savages who don’t believe in God.
“Each tribe believes in God, we may just say it differently,” she said, adding that whether He is called Grandfather or Creator, He is still God.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior, is the first Native American to be beatified. One more miracle is needed before she can be named a saint, but the Vatican is currently considering two others.