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Did you know as many as 25% of Native Americans today are Catholic?

KATERI TEKAKWITHA
Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock
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Knights of Columbus are reaching out to these often abandoned brothers and sisters in the faith.

At the Knights of Columbus annual convention, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson pointed out, “Today, in the United States, as many as one in four Native Americans are Catholic. And yet, in many ways, these brothers and sisters in the faith have been forgotten.”

This statistic come from the Catholic Extension Society, which has done extensive Native American ministry for many decades.

Now the KofC is launching an outreach to this community to assist with their spiritual and material needs.

One example is the recent assistance given on a Navajo Reservation by a Knights Council in Gulf Breeze, Florida. The Knights there helped a family move out of a tent and into their first house. The work included completing the flooring and ceiling installation, damp-proofing, plumbing, and painting for the family. They assisted several other families and elderly residents on the reservation, including fixing plumbing leaks and rebuilding fire walls.

“They had no water, no electricity. A lot of them were living in tents,” Mike Werner from Council 7272 said.

The Knights also renovated St. Anne Mission, established in 1927 by Franciscan Friars to serve a Navajo Reservation. A group of Knights traveled to the area, where they installed a wheelchair ramp to the church entrance, replaced the mission’s siding and light fixtures, and repaired the electrical system.They helped one elderly resident unload and stock hay for his family’s sheep.

As part of the Native American initiative, the Knights of Columbus, along with the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, and the Southwest Indian Foundation, are building a new St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in New Mexico.

“It is our hope that, in the years to come, this St. Kateri Shrine will become a national spiritual home for Native Americans and, equally importantly, for all Catholics in North America,” Anderson said.

The Knights will, “in the months ahead, find new ways to work with the Black and Indian Mission Office,” Anderson said, and will encourage local councils to reach out to Catholics living on Native American tribal lands and reservations.

Anderson referred to role models for Native Americans. “In Canada, a young man converted to Catholicism in 1637. Known as the ‘apostle’ to his people, he translated French hymns and prayers into his native Huron language. At the age of 38, Joseph Chiwatenwah was martyred for his Catholic faith.”

The cause of canonization for Chiwatenwah has begun.

“And in nearby South Dakota, a Lakota Sioux who fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and later witnessed the carnage at Wounded Knee, left his life as his tribe’s medicine man to become a Catholic catechist who baptized hundreds of his fellow tribesmen. Like Father McGivney (founder of the Knights of Columbus), Nicholas Black Elk’s cause for canonization is now proceeding.”

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