GREENVILLE—A stained-glass window depicting the first Native American saint will soon have a new home at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.
Father Dwight Longenecker, pastor, shared the news during the Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Father Longenecker said his parish is bringing the stained glass from its former home at the decommissioned St. Mary the Morning Star Church in Pittsfield, Mass., to Our Lady of the Rosary. The glass window will be installed in the lower level of the new church, now under construction next to the current sanctuary.
Three additional stained-glass windows depicting three Jesuits also will be installed, Father Longenecker said. They commemorate the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, who brought the Catholic faith to Native American tribes in the 1600s.
St. Kateri was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
Around 100 people attended Mass and a dinner program that wrapped up the celebration honoring St. Kateri. In his homily, Father Longenecker urged parishioners and guests to follow her example.
“She dedicated her life to the Lord in prayer and service,” Father Longenecker said. “She found she had power that comes from walking with God.”
The Mass and dinner featured Native American music performed by the Keepers of the Word Drum Team and flutist Cathy Nelson.
Chief Gene Norris, of the Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation, thanked Our Lady of the Rosary and the diocesan office of Ethnic Ministries for the feast day.
“It’s important for us to celebrate St. Kateri and our people,” Norris said.
He said his “small tribe” includes around 550 Native Americans, though there are likely many more across South Carolina.
“If you were born in the South, you probably have American Indian blood in you,” Norris told the dinner crowd. Mary Ann Chastain discovered a year ago that she is of Choctaw heritage. She is now a member of the drum team.
“My father has always said that we were Native Americans, but it was my mother who actually traced the genealogy,” Chastain said. “We’re Choctaw heritage from Yazoo City, Mississippi.”
Chastain, who lives in Chapin, said she traced her great-grandfather back to the Oklahoma Territory. The Choctaw were split in the 1830s during the Trail of Tears, with one group forming the Oklahoma Nation and the other remaining in Mississippi.
“The experience itself, in learning about the native heritage in my lineage, has been eye-opening,” she said, “and being a Christian and now a member of the Keepers has really helped me to learn more about my native heritage.
“I hope what people take away from this feast is that Native American and Christians are one and the same,” Chastain said.
Kathleen Merritt, director of Ethnic Ministries, said her office sponsors two events each year in celebration of Native American Catholics: the St. Kateri feast day and Native American Heritage Day, which will be held in November at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington.
Featured photo: Miscellany/Terry Cregar: The Keepers of the Word Drum Team performs during the Mass honoring the Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville.