Tekakwitha Conference — A Condensed History

1656-1680 Kateri Tekakwitha (Mohawk-Algonquin, 1656-1680) lived a holy life in the Mohawk Nation of New York and later in Quebec, Canada. Soon after her death, devotions were initiated by local Indian and non-Indian Catholics who had known her. In 1676 she was baptized Catherine after St. Catherine of Siena, also a mystic. The next year, three Mohawk catechists from La Prairie (Quebec) visited the Mohawk Nation and took Kateri with them on their return home. In Canada, her feast day became the anniversary of her death (Apr. 17) whereas in the United States, it became the anniversary of her flight to Canada (Jul. 14).

1884 At the Third Plenary Council at Baltimore, the U.S. bishops signed the postulation brief to introduce the canonization causes to Rome for the Jesuit martyrs and St. Kateri

Tekakwitha. (Her cause was separated later)

1885 From Jan. to Apr. in Canada and the United States, 906 native people supported St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s canonization cause by signing letters of endorsement. The signers included Charles F. Finkbonner (Lummi ancestor of Jake Finkbonner — see 2006 entry), the holy man Black Elk (Oglala; baptized 1904), and over 150 Lakota people from present-day North and South Dakota. These letters were added to the postulation brief, which the Vatican published with signatures in 1916.

1891-1900 Congregation of American Sisters: Under the leadership of Mother M. Catherine Sacred White Buffalo (Hunkpapa) and Rev. Francis M. Craft (Mohawk), several Hunkpapa women from the Standing Rock Reservation founded a religious community inspired by Blessed Kateri. … four of the American Sisters served as nurses in the U.S. Army in Cuba and reportedly they were the first American Indian women to serve officially in the Armed Forces   of the United States.

1931 Since the Congregation of Rites had separated St. Kateri’s cause from that of the Jesuit martyrs, her cause was reintroduced and a postulator was appointed.

1930s Native Catholics awareness of Kateri Tekakwitha grew through books, sodalities, and school plays.

1939 1st Annual Meeting, Fargo, N.D.: Oct. 4-5. Topics: Purpose of conference, native language usage, and Catholic schools. 27 clergy and three native lay Catholics from Minn., N.D., and S.D. convened at the invitation of Bishop Aloysius Muench. Pope Pius XII declared

Catherine (Kateri) Tekakwitha a “Heroic venerable Servant of God” the first of three steps

towards canonization (formal recognition) as a saint.


1946 7th Annual Meeting, S. D. Immaculate Conception Mission, Oct. 7-9.Topics: Catholic schools, native vocations, and Catholic life on reservations.

l 1948 9th Annual Meeting, Marty, S. D.: St. Paul Mission, Oct. 4-6.

Topics: Catholic life on reservations and movement of families to off-reservation towns.


1950 11th Annual Meeting, Stephan, S.D.: Oct. 10-11. Topics: Catholic schools 1956 17th Annual Meeting, Chamberlain, S.D.: St. Joseph’s School, Oct. 8-10. Theme: Social Order and the Indian. Guest speakers: Dr. Ben Reifel (Brule) and Robert Bennett, both of the

Bureau of Indian Affairs.


1957 18th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: Mother Butler Center, Sept. 23-25. Topics: Catholic schools, youth and urban adjustment with reports from Los Angeles, Rapid City, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere. 38 attendees.

1964 25th Annual Meeting, Chamberlain, S.D.: St. Joseph’s School, Aug. 10-13.Topics: Catechetics and liturgy on the reservation and at reservation schools. 39 attendees from 14 states.

1965 26th Annual Meeting, Marvin, S.D.: Blue Cloud Abbey, Aug. 9-11. By 1965, native clergy such as Reverend John J. Brown, S.J. (Siksika [Blackfeet]), were members of the conference.

1967 28th Annual Meeting, St. Norbert, Manitoba, Canada: Villa Marie Retreat House, Aug. 7-9. Topics: mission of church, effective evangelization, liturgical adaptation with the sacred pipe and problems of alcoholism. This was the first meeting held in Canada and the first to involve Canadian scholars and missionaries.

1969 30th Annual Meeting, Marvin, S.D.: Blue Cloud Abbey, August 4-6. Theme: The New Indian Generation. Topics: “Red power” with discussions led by Br. Edward M. Red Owl, OSB. The

Tekakwitha Conference reorganized its governance with the position of Executive Secretary as the principal office. The conference’s first newsletter was distributed.

1971 32nd Annual Meeting, Pine Ridge, S.D.: Holy Rosary Mission, Aug. 9-11. Theme: Present-Day Thrust of Indian People for Self-Determination. Topics: Native diaconate and conversion of mission schools to lay control with Birgil Kills Straight as keynote speaker. Association of Native Religious and Clergy (ANRC) established, which is comprised of Native American Catholic clergy and religious from the U.S and Canada.

1977 38th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: Aug. [8-11?]. Theme: Re-evaluation of purpose. Msgr. Paul A. Lenz, secretary of the Commission for Catholic Missions Among the Colored People and the Indians (and director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions), promised financial support for further development of the conference.

1978 39th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: St. Martin Academy, Aug. 7-10. Theme: Toward a Better Understanding of the Present and Future Direction of the Catholic Church with Native

American Tribes. Highlights: Critical and provocative addresses provided by the principal speakers: Sr. M. Jose Hobday, SSSF (Seneca), Rupert Costo, editor of Wassaja, and R. Pierce Beaver, historian of Protestant Indian missions. 220 people attended.

1979 40th Annual Meeting, Yankton, S.D.: Mount Marty College, August 6-9. Highlights: Native American Catholics comprised 66 of the approximately 200 participants. They

challenged the clergy to listen to the concerns of Native Americans. (They) met with Msgr.Paul A. Lenz (Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions), Bishop Harold J. Dimmerling (Rapid City, S.D.), Bishop Thomas Murphy (Great Falls, Mont.), and Bishop William G. Connare (Greensburg, Pa., Chair, U.S. Catholic Conference Mission Committee) to articulate their concerns. The Tekakwitha Conference incorporated with a board of directors, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed an Episcopal Moderator, and it became listed in The Official Catholic Directory.

1989 50th Annual Meeting, Fargo, N. D.: North Dakota State University, Aug. 2-6.Theme: Walking the Sacred Circle with Jesus Christ. Also, 1989, a lay Native Catholic director was appointed as the first Native American director and the Conference is awarded the Pope Paul VI Award of the N.C.C.E. (National Council of Catholic Evangelization).

2002 64th Annual Meeting, Sioux Falls, S.D.: Augustana College, Jul. 30-Aug. 3. Theme: We are All Related through Kateri and Share our Culture and Faith on the Great Plains.

2006 On Mar. 4, by special request, Sister Kateri Mitchell went to Seattle to prepare for the annual meeting to be held in Seattle. She first visited Jacob Finkbonner at Seattle Children’s Hospital who was gravely ill with a strep A infection on his face. While at his bedside Sister Kateri and Jake’s mother prayed to Kateri Tekakwitha for her intercession while pressing a first-class relic to his body. While in surgery minutes later, hospital staff removed Jake’s bandages and discovered that he was disease free. Yet on the previous day when they applied the bandages, the upper half of his body was disease covered.

67th Annual Meeting, Burien (Seattle), Washington Pilgrimage to Lummi Reservation, Jul. 21, included an announcement on the investigation of Jacob Finkbonner’s miraculous healing.

2011 72nd Annual Meeting, Tucson, Ariz.: Tucson Convention Center, Jul. 20- 24. Theme: The Grand Canyon State is Enriched by Kateri Tekakwitha. On Dec. 17, Pope Benedict approved the 2006 instantaneous healing of Jacob Finkbonner as a first class miracle attributed to Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession.

2012 73rd Annual Meeting, Albany, N.Y.: July 18-22. Theme: Walking in Her Footsteps in Kateri Country. Pilgrimage to Auriesville and Fonda shrines, July 21. Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha as a saint in heaven on Oct. 21.

2013 74th Annual Meeting, El Paso, Texas: July 17-21. The Tekakwitha Conference purchased and relocated to a new National Center in Alexandria, Louisiana.

2017 78th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.

(From Marquette University Archives, Milwaukee, WI. Used with permission. Statue photo taken at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City)


Catholic Social Services helps birth mother and daughter reunite

Catholic Social Services is one of the few adoption agencies that still assists with birth parent/child searches. Merri Blake and her daughter, Courtney, found each other after 28 years. (Courtesy photo)


By Mary Garrigan
Catholic Social Services

In 1987, Catholic Social Services helped Merri Blake make an adoption plan for her newborn daughter.

Twenty-eight years later, CSS was there again for Merri when she decided to search for the baby who grew up as Courtney, the happy, healthy and beloved daughter of Joan and John Luft.

Because Merri shrouded her pregnancy and adoption decision in deep secrecy, only her parents, now deceased, some close friends and her husband, Jake, knew of the baby. Merri, already the single-mother of a toddler, never told her six siblings or her four other daughters, now ages 30, 24, 21 and 16, about Courtney.

“I was raised to believe that something like this was a bad thing, you know, like you did something bad and that’s why this has to happen. I didn’t realize that it could be something other than a bad thing,” Merri said.

The culture of adoption has changed dramatically in recent decades, says Natalie Lecy, director of the CSS Family Services Department. “We really encourage open adoption for everyone today. It’s healthier all around. Open adoption doesn’t mean that you’re going to be each other’s best friends, or even have regular contact. It’s just that the lines of communication are always kept open, so that medical questions or grief issues that may come up with a child can be addressed as they do,” Lecy said.

Over time, Merri came to see her adoption decision as a beautiful choice. “I just wish I would have known that a lot sooner,” she said. But once she decided to search for Courtney, things happened quickly.

By law, any birth parent or adoptee is allowed to initiate a search once the adoptee has reached the age of 18. Catholic Social Services is one of the few adoption agencies that still assists with searches. “Most agencies no longer offer this service, but CSS values the courage and selfless sacrifice of our clients who made this decision years ago so much that we’ve made a longterm commitment to help them,” Lecy said.

CSS was able to quickly connect Merri with Courtney’s mom, Joan, who grew up in Mud Butte and happened to be in the area visiting relatives.

“Courtney was the second child we adopted through Catholic Social Services and it was never a big secret that they were adopted,” Joan said. “The doors of communication between CSS and us were always open.”

After the two women met over coffee, Joan quickly shared Merri’s phone number with Courtney, who is married and living in Nashville now. The next day, Merri received a text that read: “This is Courtney. I want to talk sometime. How about tomorrow?”

“This whole thing moved a whole lot faster than I expected it to,” Merri laughed.

Courtney calls Merri’s decision to reach out to her “perfect timing.” Her older sister, Erin, had recently searched for her birth parents and the experience was a positive one. “I was planning to do it soon, too,” Courtney said. “Ever since I was little, I was always intrigued and kind of wanted to know who she was. After all, she’s part of who I am and the reason I am where I am today.”

Merri and Courtney’s first meeting took place in 2015 at a Nashville mall. There were lots of questions and answers, and plenty of tears, too. “We stayed and talked and talked until they kicked us out,” Merri said. “She just asked and asked and asked and I just answered and answered and answered.”

Courtney’s questions were mostly about Merri’s circumstances at the time of her birth, her birth father and the history of her extended birth family. “She was so gracious answering all my questions,” Courtney said.

Merri’s biggest fear — that Courtney would resent her for choosing to parent her first child but place her second for adoption – proved unfounded. “I just wanted her to know the reason that I did this. I couldn’t bring another baby into my home when I couldn’t even feed or clothe the one I already had.”

Courtney says she would have done the same thing. “I never felt any resentment at all. I know I was very fortunate to wind up where I did,” she said. “If someone has the courage and bravery to give their child up for adoption, then they must be a really caring and kind person.”

Merri says she couldn’t have chosen better parents for her baby, something which was not an option 28 years ago.

“Her parents could not have raised her any better. She is so caring and considerate and such a good person. She is such a sweet girl,” Merri said.

Today, Merri and Courtney keep in touch by text, telephone and Facebook. Tragically, John Luft died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack five years ago, before getting to meet the birth mothers of his two daughters. “Not a day went by that we did not want to thank the birth mothers and birth fathers for this gift,” Joan said. “We were never threatened by them searching, or thought it would hurt our feelings.”

Joan, Courtney and Merri come from different perspectives on the adoption experience, but they share a common gratitude.

“We are all very lucky,” said Joan.






Called to live the life of solitary prayer a hermit chooses a quiet Piedmont location

Immaculate Heart Hermitage is a new home for Sr. Mary Catherine Jacobs who will reside in the Diocese of Rapid City as a hermit.

Originally from Ralph, she entered religious life at age 18 at the Carmel of Mary Monastery at Wahpeton, N.D. It is a cloistered contemplative order with a devotion to imitating the Blessed Mother.

“Mary is very much a part of my life,” she said. “Every grace I received came to me through her hands.”

The monastery in N. D. was founded in 1954, the Marian year. “I was there 30 years and began to know the eremitical calling (to become a hermit) around 1986. Vatican II talked about going back to your roots so I felt very strongly that I was being called back to what we lived in the origin of the order.

“Reading the Holy Father’s encyclical on “Rich in Mercy,” St. John Paul II speaks of conversion to the father as an experience of knowing the trinity dwells in every soul.

“I felt called to a life of prayer. You can reach into everybody’s heart by prayer,” said Sr. Mary Catherine.

She first explored the hermetic life in Chester, New Jersey. She also lived in communities in Texas and a new community starting in Brazil. After much contemplation she discerned her calling was to live not in community, but as a solitary hermit.

She talked to Fr. Dan Juelfs, who used to be a neighbor at Ralph. He said he would speak with Bishop Robert Gruss. After interviewing her last fall and reviewing her references, the bishop gave his consent for establishing a hermitage. This is new to the diocese, so the Handbook for Hermetic Life was adapted from the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. The bishop appointed Fr. Leo Hausmann, director of Eremitic Life. Fr. Mark McCormick is her spiritual director.

“My hermitage is not a place where I get away, it’s where I meet the whole world in prayer and in Christ, because Christ prays for everyone. It’s almost like an infinite vocation — not limited to time or space, nobody is excluded. The whole world is in there from the beginning of creation until the end because God is there,” said Sr. Mary Catherine.

“We are each individuals and are to have a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord. The hermit is to be an icon of the time we are to be personally relating to the Lord,” she said. “I live in silence and solitude and that is to some degree everybody’s calling. The hermit is to be an intercessor, to let Christ pray his prayer through her, that’s what we all seek.”

She will make her temporal eremitic vows at 11 a.m. Mass on June 29 at Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont. She attends daily Mass there and at St. Martin Monastery. The church has a box set up for prayer requests and prayer requests can be sent to her at smcjacobsocarm@gmail.com.

According to diocesan policy, hermits residing in the Diocese of Rapid City are required to be self-supporting. Sr. Mary Catherine partially supports herself by painting and selling icons and painting artwork for Christmas and Easter cards, bookmarks and holy cards. To view her artwork for sale, go to Land of Carmel Art Inspirations at carmelartinspirations.com. She also sews Mass linens for the Carmelites in Wahpeton in order to bring in money.

Immaculate Heart Hermitage has been established by Sr. Mary Catherine as a non-profit organization in the State of South Dakota with a board of trustees so that she can receive donations to help support herself and her ministry. For anyone who would like to inquire about how they can support her ministry, please contact her at smcjacobsocarm@gmail.com.

To the devil even moderately faithful Catholics stink

Ghosts, the devil and witchcraft — topics Catholics should be aware of, were the subjects of a lecture open to the public given by Fr. Dennis McManus, an exorcist. He spoke May 24 at Terra Sancta, Rapid City. He was in the Diocese of Rapid City to address the clergy at their annual Clergy Convocation.

Father McManus began by explaining ghosts are essentially souls of humans separated from their bodies after or near death. “Our nation has a thing about magic, witchcraft and ghosts,” he said. “All together there are 32 shows on television about ghosts, zombies, dead people or (demonic) possession.”

He commended Pope Francis for talking frequently about the devil. “What he wants us to know as Catholics is that the devil is a real individual. The devil’s biggest trick in the modern world is to fool us and make us think he doesn’t really exist,” said Father McManus. “If you don’t believe in the devil, you pretty much are a sitting duck for him to be able to do with you what he wants. If we are aware of things we are less likely to be manipulated or fooled by them.”

He cautioned the audience not to be “all jittery sitting home and worrying the devil is going to come visit.” According to McManus, “The devil is not God. He doesn’t have God’s powers. You are a baptized person, (if) you live even a modest Catholic life, go to church occasionally and say your prayers, you stink to the devil. The devil doesn’t hang around Catholics or Protestants or Jews who love God.”

Since the Civil War, the south is full of haunted houses below the Mason Dixon line. “The first thing we have to think about is ghosts are not demons or devils. Ghosts are the souls of the faithful departed whom God has allowed to be in touch with us who are still alive — usually in the place where they lived or died, or did something wrong. Ghosts ask for help to make things right, for the forgiveness of sins,” he said. “Almost all cases of hauntings resolve themselves once a priest has come and said Mass in the place where the ghost was.

“When Mass is offered just for the soul of that one person, they are set free, and off they go to paradise because Mass is the great sacrifice of Jesus himself. Our salvation was purchased by the blood of Jesus.”

Father McManus gave several examples of ghosts in the Bible. In the Gospels, when the apostles see Jesus walking on the water they think he is a ghost. After the resurrection, when Jesus appears in the upper room, again they think he is a ghost. He challenges them by asking Thomas to touch his wounds and wanting something to eat.

“Ghosts for the Jews had only one purpose — to get revenge. The apostles are screaming and afraid. They figure Jesus is angry with them and has come back to get even,” said McManus referring to the betrayal by Judas and Peter denying he knows the Lord. On the day of the resurrection, 500 ghosts rose from the dead and walked through Jerusalem.

“God needed the Jews to see Jesus sets the dead free,” he said.

“How many times in your life have you lost someone, a husband, a wife, God forbid a child, brother or sister, and you have dreamt of them?” he asked. “Occasionally we have seen them especially at the time of their death. They come to say goodbye and to ask for prayers.”

Using his nickname for the devil, he said, “Old Red Legs has nothing to do with ghosts. He can’t get his hands on ghosts even if he tried because ghosts are already in purgatory — on their way to heaven. God allows them to ask the church for help in this entrance to heaven. There are a million entrances into the dark kingdom and only one into heaven.”

Father McManus recounted the story of two high school girls who brought him a Ouija board they had been using for a year. The planchette was starting to move on it’s own without their hands. When he recommended they quit using it, the girls refused saying they used it to learn “secret stuff.” They were addicted to the flow of information and couldn’t stop. He offered to fix it for them and got out a hammer and smashed it. They protested.

“It won’t bother you again,” he said. “What I wrecked is your dependency. I’m warning you whatever moves something by itself is no friend.”

He continued his talk discussing witchcraft, which is prevalent in many cultures.

“In my part of the world, in Mobile, Ala., it’s voodoo. To get even with somebody, go to a voodoo witch — ‘that guy cheated me out of money,’ ‘that man took away my son,’ ‘that woman wrecked my marriage …’”

Bishops will call him, all shook up, when churches are vandalized. He explains that is a rite of passage for a coven. Father McManus said the number of covens is growing attended by white American lawyers, doctors, ministers, professors and businessmen worshiping Satan. “There are now more covens than there are parish churches, convents, schools and clinics put together,” he said. “They promise you whatever you like — drugs, sex, booze, money, jobs, position, anything. It’s all on condition that you do what you are asked to do at a future date.” That could include theft or murder.

The exorcist concluded with possession. It occurs when a human consents to form a long-term relationship with a demon.

Exorcism puts an end to the relationships between demons and humans. The person has to reject, renounce and rebuke what ever it is they are supplying.

“Then the power of Jesus can come in and break the bonds,” he said. “If you go to hell it was your choice. God will use any little scrap of our life to make sure we won’t go to hell.”



Fr. Mark’s Musings

Holy Spirit Novena

A Novena to the Holy Spirit is offered online by the TransCanada Province of the Spiritans by clicking here.

The Holy Spirit is the unseen moving force of God in the world — unseen but not unheard. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets of the Old Testament to lead the people to God. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the evangelists to write the Gospels and Epistles. It is today the Holy Spirit who guides the faithful: “and I will send the Holy Spirit to inspire you.”

Spiritans are happy to offer you this novena, to be prayed May 26-June 3,  so that you may pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit daily for the seven gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe.

Prayer of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus Christ, before ascending into heaven you promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of your Apostles and Disciples. Grant that I may be open to the work of that same Spirit within me.

Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom
that I may not be attached to the perishable things of this world but seek the things that are eternal.

Grant me the Spirit of Understanding
to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth.

Grant me the Spirit of Right Judgment
that I may choose the surest way of pleasing God.

Grant me the Spirit of Courage
that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome all the obstacles that oppose my salvation.

Grant me the Spirit of Knowledge
that I may know God and know myself.

Grant me the Spirit of Reverence
that I may find the service of God sweet and attractive.

Grant me the Spirit of Wonder and Awe
that I may be filled with loving reverence towards God and may avoid anything that would displease him.

Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your Spirit

Rapid City guild of Catholic Medical Association begins meeting

Pictured: The Sacred Heart of Jesus Guild of the Catholic Medical Association of the
Diocese of Rapid CityPresident George Ceremuga, II;


In the early 20th century, prior to American Catholics’ integration into the mainstream of culture and institutions in the United States, in Boston, Mass., the Catholic Medical Association was formed. It strengthened physicians in their faith, organizing them in local guilds to support one another and the church.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Guild of the Catholic Medical Association of the Diocese of Rapid City has applied to become a chartered guild of the National Catholic Medical Association. It obtained provisional status as of February 4. In the last few months the guild has met the association requirements to be an officially chartered guild and the application is currently at the National CMA board of directors for approval.

At the present time there are more than 100 chartered guilds and 25 student chapters of the CMA. Guilds are organized at the level of a parish, city, or diocese. Local guilds are organized in 11 regions of the country and one military district, each supported by two regional directors.

Board of director members include: Chaplain Bishop Robert Gruss; President George Ceremuga, II; and Vice President Rommel Brandt. The Diocesan Chief Finance Officer, Rick Soulek, will serve as treasurer and the Director of Family Life Ministries, Amy Julian, will serve as secretary.

The membership welcomes physicians, healthcare professionals, clergy, students and all persons interested in integrating Catholic principles into health care. To date there are 12 charter members in the Rapid City guild according to President Ceremuga. The goal of the CMA is to help the members to grow in faith, maintain ethical integrity and provide excellent healthcare in accordance with the teachings of the church. With the landscape of medical ethical issues changing so swiftly, this mission is more important than ever.

“Our guild will be active in educating the community on pro-life medical issues and preparing for the social challenges

regarding end of life care and the prescription of medical marijuana that is sweeping the nation,” he said.

Membership benefits include spiritual and professional support; subscriptions to The Linacre Quarterly and The Pulse of Catholic Medicine Magazine; educational opportunities and networking; email updates and action alerts; discounted registration to the CMA Annual Conference.

Projected monthly meeting times are Saturday mornings at Catholic Social Services. Please see the web address below for the membership categories and the fee structure. http://www.cathmed.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2017-New-Member-Application-Form.pdf.

For information, please contact Ceremuga at 605-430-4843, george@dr georgej.com, or Dan Petereit at 605-390-1154.