‘St. Kateri Tekakwitha Prayer Circle’ formed in Archdiocese

January 23, 2018

Photo courtesy of Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil

HOUSTON — The new “Texas Indian Paintbrush St. Kateri Prayer Circle” gives Native Americans, or those who identify with this culture and traditions, the opportunity to gather and pray in Houston.

This ministry is part of the national Catholic Tekakwitha Conference comprised of many St. Kateri Prayer Circles that meet regularly in parishes and missions in six regions throughout the country. The prayer circles also gather each year in July for the Annual Tekakwitha Conference, hosted at different locations across the nation. In 2018, the annual conference will be in Tacoma, Washington.

Inspired by recently canonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk/Algonquin woman of the 17th century, each circle gathering is a time to renew faith and reaffirm the faithful’s baptismal call as followers of Jesus Christ to proclaim the Good News.

Attendees pray with faith and hope for the continued intercession of St. Kateri in the lives of all people.

Besides reinforcing their Catholic identity, members also affirm their pride in Native cultures and spiritual traditions, promote healing through forgiveness and reconciliation, and are advocates for peace and justice in Indigenous communities. The goal is to also build stronger catechesis that is meaningful to Catholic Indigenous people and nurture the relationship between Indigenous people and the Catholic Church, as well as, empower leaders within their communities and Church.

One will discover and become knowledgeable about Native American issues and topics relevant to reservation and urban communities, and those related to their own moral, intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. In addition, attendees learn about current canonization efforts of Native Americans, including the Indian Martyrs of La Florida and Nicholas Black Elk; upcoming pow wows and honor dances; and other topics of interest by guest and member speakers.

After a short social time, the meeting begins with Native American and Catholic prayer, a Native song, local and regional news, leading to the main topic presentation. News from the national conference, past and future, is provided.

Several members of the St. Kateri Circle are working with other prominent Native Americans, as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s assistant director of Native American Affairs. Prayer circles like this can make a difference, especially in the areas of social justice. Unfortunately, too many Native Americans are suffering extreme hardship on most reservations. Circle members can contribute their talents in this regard.

According to a recent survey taken by the Native American Health Coalition to try and bring the Indian Health Service to Houston, there are more than 60,000 people who identify themselves as Native American in this area. While this is a significant number, religion or faith beliefs are not known.

However, there are Native American ministries in some local Methodist and Baptist churches. Surprisingly, there was no Native American outreach or ministry in the Archdiocese. These facts, along with their involvement in the Tekakwitha Conference, inspired Tammy Baldauff (Osage) and Rich May, a local theologian, to start a St. Kateri Prayer Circle.

Tammy, the mother of four grown children and a former lawyer, has been involved in Catholic ministry for 35 years in the States and overseas; but it was the attendance at Tekakwitha Conferences, and a Catholic Native American Lenten Retreat in Oklahoma that stirred her heart to form a St. Kateri Prayer Circle in Houston. The first prayer circle was on April 17, the day St. Kateri died. Meeting May, knowledgeable on Native American saints, who has been giving presentations at Tekakwitha Conferences for seven years, was Divine Providence, and the first sign to follow this path. The spiritual director for the prayer circle is Deacon Dennis Hickey of the Southern Cheyenne reservation.

Prayer circles are held the first Monday each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Charlotte Hall classroom at St. Dominic Village, 2401 Holcombe Blvd., near the medical center. There are no dues to join the prayer circle, and it is not required to be Native American or Catholic to join.

For more information, contact Tammy Baldauff at txsaintkateri@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/TxIndianPaintbrush.

For more information on the National Tekakwitha Conference, located in Alexandria, LA, visit www.tekconf.org. If interested in presentations on St. Kateri; or Servants of God, Nicholas Black Elk; and the La Florida Martyrs, contact May at richmay33@me.com.