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Debra Greenblat/Catholic San Francisco

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Native American Catholics unite to celebrate faith, tradition
July 25th, 2016
By Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco

More than 700 Native American Catholics gathered in Burlingame July 20-24 to celebrate their faith and tribal traditions and discuss their unique goals and challenges during the 77th Annual Tekakwitha Conference.



The national conference takes its name from St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk/Algonquin woman baptized into the Catholic faith April 5, 1676 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI October 21, 2012. This year’s theme, “St. Kateri – Bridge Between Our Faith and Our Traditions” invoked her legacy in daily Mass, prayer, music and educational presentations.



Mission Dolores curators Andrew Galvan and his nephew Vincent Medina, whose Ohlone ancestors are among the 5,000 indigenous Californians who helped build the mission, helped open the conference by greeting the delegates in Chochenyo, the Ohlone tongue.



The event drew eight Catholic bishops and 50 priests to the altar at the conference Masses, many of whom have worked in ministry to Native American populations, burdened by high rates of unemployment, homelessness, drug abuse and suicide.



Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles offered a straightforward apology to the delegates representing indigenous nations throughout North America in his opening welcome.


“As a bishop of California I want to ask your forgiveness, the forgiveness of all Native Americans but especially of California Native Americans, for the failures of the church and whatever the church, past and present, has done, either directly or indirectly, to participate in, cooperate with, or indifferently ignore the oppression, the enslavement, and the genocide, yes genocide, of Native Americans.  I ask your forgiveness,” he said. “Here in California, in the last few years, the bishops have become more and more aware of the history and the needs of our Native American communities and we are resolved to see that the truth is told and our care for Native Americans improved.”

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