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    The Order announced an effort to honor indigenous peoples who passed away from COVID-19 at Mass for Healing Among Native Communities

    By Andrew Fowler 12/14/2020
    Father Maurice Henry Sands celebrates a Mass for healing among native communities at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on Dec. 9, the feast day of St. Juan Diego. (Image by Sarah Gorham)

    The Knights of Columbus will be working with Native American and First Nations peoples in planting trees and developing other “living memorials.” These memorials will be erected in native and indigenous communities who have suffered as a result of COVID-19 and past pandemics.

    While the Knights of Columbus and other agencies have long been dedicated to assist Native American and First Nations peoples, “the spiritual and mental suffering is more difficult to quantify” especially now, during the global pandemic, said Patrick Mason, a member of the Osage Nation who serves as an assistant supreme secretary at the Knights of Columbus.

    “Culturally and traditionally, native peoples have a strong connection to creation and nature,” Mason said. “This project hopes to create living monuments both in memory to those who have lost their lives but also for the survivors as a place for prayer and remembrance.”

    The project was announced during a “Mass for Healing Among Native Communities” held at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine — a K of C initiative in Washington, D.C. — on Dec. 9, the feast day of St. Juan Diego, patron of indigenous peoples in the Americas.

    Father Maurice Henry Sands was the main celebrant of the Mass. A member of various Michigan tribes, a Knight of Columbus and the executive director of the Bureau of Indian Missions, Father Sands preached about the historical traumas indigenous peoples have faced over the centuries, and how they now deserve our help in finding hope and complete healing.

    “Helping native peoples to experience a living and personal faith in Christ — and inviting them to live that faith as members of the body of Christ — is the best way that we can help them receive the hope and healing that only Christ can offer them,” Father Sands said.

    He continued, “It is this hope that will help [them] to begin to experience healing, to believe that things can get better for them, and to begin to take the next steps to improve their lives.”

    The new project is part of the Knights’ Orderwide Native Solidarity initiative. First announced at the 137th Supreme Convention, the Native Solidarity initiative was more and more critical as indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Canada have become one of the hardest hit communities during COVID-19. In response, Knights from the Southwest brought basic necessities to thousands on reservations in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah as part of the Order’s “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative. The Knights has also collaborated with Life is Sacred, a native run non-profit committed to building a culture of life and a civilization of love.

    Other Knights supported outreach efforts in Hawaii and helped launch the Küpuna Needs Project to aid elderly native Hawaiians on Oahu. More recently, Minnesota Knights distributed 600 winter coats at the Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy, an Ojibwe Native American school.

    In continuing this initiative, the Knights and Life is Sacred will begin erecting “living memorials” around the U.S. and Canada, beginning on Pine Ridge and Rosebud communities in South Dakota; on Pueblo, Apache and Navajo communities in New Mexico; on Mohawk communities in New York; on Ohau in Hawaii; and First Nation communities in Canada.

    “The mission of both the Knights and Life is Sacred is ultimately about formation of members of the Body of Christ,” Mason said. “This project continues in this mission of formation particularly focusing on the spiritual and suman development of people that have suffered so much throughout this pandemic.”



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