Nearly a year ago, the Knights of Columbus, the Diocese of Gallup and the Southwest Indian Foundation broke ground on a new shrine to honor St. Kateri Tekakwitha — an Algonquin-Mohawk woman who became the first Native American to be canonized. At the ceremony, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson expressed the Order’s hope that the shrine will “become a national, spiritual home for Native Americans and for all Catholics.”
Erik Bootsma — a Catholic architect and a member of Father William Nolte Council 11533 in Richmond, Va. — was asked by the Supreme Council to lead the shrine’s construction.
“This is really unique because it is not necessarily purely liturgical, but [it is] devotional work,” Bootsma said. “It’s a good opportunity for creativity and do something really great within [Native American] traditions.”
The shrine will include a chapel, museum, a large-scale crucifix and 30 outdoor rosary stations — each marked by a niche designed by a Catholic artist from a distinct Native American tribe. Local Native American students are assisting during phase 1 of the project. So far, they have helped install 23 of the niches.
“We’re trying to not just replicate, but to build on the traditional way of building out there, with the adobe brick and heavy timber techniques,” Bootsma said.
Bootsma says that due to this traditional style of building, the shrine’s completion will take time. It also requires additional funding, as each niche itself costs roughly $20,000. The Supreme Council’s financial contribution to the shrine covers part of what is needed.
Helping fund the St. Kateri Shrine is just one way the Knights of Columbus is supporting Catholic outreach to Native American tribes in the U.S. and First Nations peoples in Canada. The Knights of Columbus has also recently collaborated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Black and Indian Mission Office and is encouraging councils to engage with people living on reservations.
Bootmsa said he believes the shrine can be a beacon not only for Catholics within the Diocese of Gallup, but also for everyone around the country. It also calls attention to the challenges that Native American communities face.
As Bootsma pointed out, the shrine shows that “we care about everyone, including the Native Americans who haven’t necessarily been treated the best in this country.”
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s archives.
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