On Oct. 20, as parishioners of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Church prepared for the canonization of their patron saint — and the renaming of their church — sacristan Meg Giovanonni reflected on how much about the Santa Clarita parish reflects the life of the young woman often referred to as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”“Ours is a very welcoming parish, with a very dedicated, very pastoral pastor [Msgr. Mike Slattery], and the people here are very friendly and love to share this wonderful space,” she said of the parish established in 1998. “Parishioners appreciate that Saint Kateri is the patroness of ecology. They appreciate that they are able to see so much nature from inside the church.”On this cool evening, members of the Blessed Kateri staff and parishioners came and participated in a blessing ceremony of the parish church and people. Rudy Ortega, Jr., spiritual leader of the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, used burning sage and an eagle feather to bless the north, south, east and west of the church. Exiting to the church courtyard, he asked those gathered to form a circle and said, “Close your eyes and open your hearts.” He then went from person to person and blessed those gathered. “She was a woman on a spiritual path,” Ortega said of the patroness of ecologists and those who cherish the earth. The young Tekakwitha reverenced nature and was known to spend long periods of time in prayer and contemplation and communion with the earth.“She had much passion for her culture, her traditions and nature,” said Ortega. “Today we have many women who are spiritual leaders and we understand the balance that is necessary in nature.”The next day, Cardinal Roger Mahony presided at the Mass celebrating the canonization — appropriately so, for it was the cardinal who in 1998 chose Blessed Kateri as the patroness of the new parish in Santa Clarita. In his letter to the parish on March 28 of that year, he said: “The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has the largest number of urban Native Americans in the United States, but we have no parish dedicated to a blessed or saint among them. Given the fact that the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley were once populated by a large group of Native Americans, we felt that it would be most important to dedicate this new mission parish in honor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. This designation gives honor to the large number of Catholic communities among our Native Americans.” In his homily on canonization day, Cardinal Mahony reminded everyone that “Jesus was always with the ‘wrong’ people — the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the blind, the lame. We are called to do as Jesus did. And we are not alone; we have large numbers of disciples among us.” “Kateri did not have that kind of support. Yet she wanted to follow Jesus as she had learned.” Throughout her short life, the cardinal said, she “stayed the course and remained faithful. She was most gracious, most kind in exactly the way Jesus lived his life. She became a wonderful model. We are called to renew our faith commitment with the same energy that she did.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1026/kateri/{/gallery}