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Native American Catholicism & the New Evangelization–Peter Jesserer Smith

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Native American Catholicism & the New Evangelization–Peter Jesserer Smith

May 16, 2018

The history of Catholicism in the native American nations is
little known, but is rife with lessons for lay spirituality,
inculturation, and the New Evangelization. Today’s guest,
journalist Peter Jesserer Smith, shares some of the holy treasures
of American history, such as Joseph Chiwatenhwa and Marie Aonetta,
the Huron “power couple” of evangelization, and the martyrs
(numbering over a thousand) of the La Florida missions.


Homily of Pope St. John Paul II at the Martyrs’ Shrine (Huronia)
on Saturday, 15 September 1984

Friends of God: The Early Native Huron Church in
by Bruce Henry (tells the story of Joseph Chiwatenhwa
and Marie Aonetta) http://www.wyandot.org/friendsofgod.htm

Eustace Ahasistari, Catholic Huron warrior, as described by
Jesuit missionaries

Articles by Peter Jesserer Smith

America’s first paths of holiness: Lives of indigenous saints
and martyrs

Hundreds of Martyrs Sow the Seeds of Faith in the United States


St. Kateri Tekakwitha: Our Saint for All Seasons

A holy marriage gave the Church a community of native saints,
and St. Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Kateri and the Four Holy Martyrs from Kahnawake

A proven path to holiness: Mentoring a saint

Cause Opens for Nicholas Black Elk, Holy Man of the Lakota



Peter Jesserer Smith interview

3:25 Why is native American Catholic history and culture
important for the New Evangelization?

6:37 St. John Paul II’s 1984 address at the Martyr’s Shrine in

7:35 What were the missionaries impressed with in native
American cultures? What aspects of native cultures resonated with
the Gospel? In the Great Lakes region: family-based societies,
devotion to the Creator

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11:29 The lay missionary power couple of the Huron: Joseph
Chiwatenhwa (a convert of St. Jean de Brebeuf) and his wife Marie

13:51 Native American societies were set up almost more like the
United States than like Europe, so the old European model of
“convert the king and the people will follow” was and is

16:16 More on Joseph and Marie. Women have a lot of authority in
Native societies in this region, so Marie’s active involvement in
evangelization is essential

20:35 Hostility from some natives because Jesuits inadvertently
brought disease, leading to Chiwatenhwa’s martyrdom

32:02 Joseph Chiwatenhwa was the first lay parish administrator
in Canada; Native converts’ devotion to the Eucharist, the Liturgy
of the Hours, and the Rosary

34:18 Not everything in Huron culture was compatible with the
Catholic faith. What would it have meant to be a Huron warrior who
was also a Christian? Example: Eustace Ahasistari

40:00 Funny—well, it’s interesting—it’s not
hilarious—story about Eustace Ahasistari’s and St. Isaac
Jogue’s very different responses to torture

44:35 Reasons why these native Catholics have not been
canonized; their continuing relevance

47:30 Ritual adoption and how it helped transmit the Gospel
between tribes and nations—all the way to St. Kateri Tekakwitha;
the importance of preserving the languages which spread the

52:38 The hundreds of martyrs of the La Florida missions

59:04 The lead martyr, Antonio Cuipa

1:11:18 The lessons of inculturation in native American nations
are increasingly relevant at a time when more and more American
Catholic thinkers are questioning the foundations of our country
and proposing various alternatives

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1:12:14 This week’s excerpt: Mary Shelley,

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