Jesuit Travels to Rome for Canonization of First Native American Saint

Jesuit Father Patrick TwohyOne of the highlights of 2012 for Jesuit Father Patrick Twohy was traveling to Rome in October to watch Pope Benedict XVI canonize seven saints. “This is so right, the Church honoring those who lived the beatitudes,” Fr. Twohy recalls thinking of the experience.

After being called 40 years ago to serve Native American people, Fr. Twohy was in Rome to celebrate the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint.

Fr. Twohy, who is director of the Rocky Mountain Mission for the Northwest Jesuits and chaplain to Native Americans of the Seattle Archdiocese, traveled to the Vatican with a group of about 40 Native people from several Northwest tribes.

“We were there with many tribes. They all claim her because the honor of one is the honor of all. That certainly was the case on that wonderful day,” Fr. Twohy said.

As a member of the Tekakwitha Conference — the only annual gathering of Catholic Native peoples in North America — Fr. Twohy had prayed with about 1,000 others for the canonization of Kateri each year since Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980.

“To have her honored is to honor all Native peoples, the sanctity of their lives and the beauty of their culture. I was blessed to be standing in St. Peter’s piazza with all these grandmothers and great grandmothers whose guidance I so value,” said Fr. Twohy, one of 12 Jesuits who serve Native Americans throughout the Northwest.

The Jesuits have a 170-year history with Native Americans, according to Fr. Twohy, who moved to the Colville Reservation at Nespelem, Wash., in 1973.

“That was the beginning and it has gotten deeper and more profound with each year for me,” said Fr. Twohy. “Now I see the world with a double richness. I belong to the Catholic tradition and that worldview and to those people whose wisdom spans thousands and thousands of years. I want to journey forever with them into the next world.”

Fr. Twohy joined the Jesuits at 18. “Ever since I was young, I’ve always been drawn to the mystery, that which is hidden in all things,” he said. “When I met the Jesuits who taught me in high school, I was deeply impressed with the width of their learning, the width of their hearts and their engagement with the world.”

For more, read the article by Annie Beckmann on the Seattle University website.

One Response to “Jesuit Travels to Rome for Canonization of First Native American Saint”

  • Fr Tom Colgan, S.J.:

    I was happy to see that Fr Pat Towhy was able to be with the Native Peoples, whom he has loved for dacades, at this long overdue event. I am happy for the Native Peoples too. When we get into heaven we will meet alot more Native American saints.