Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
December 3, 2001
Hobbema cherishes rugged cross
'It means Jesus is near,' says 8-year-old
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
HOBBEMA — The simple, rugged World Youth Day cross made a big impact on Catholics here, both young and old.
"Everybody around the world has touched that cross and I got to do the same; it's an incredible feeling," exclaimed 18-year-old Gina Wildcat, one of 100 people who gathered at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church Nov. 23 to pay tribute to the Pilgrim Cross.
"When I touched it I felt overwhelmed, filled with joy and happiness."
Her mother, Esther Wildcat, was equally moved. "It's like touching Jesus," she said. "It's like being close to him feeling his love."
"I'm happy the cross came this way; it means Jesus is near," said eight-year-old Marina Makinaw, a Catholic singer who performed at services held here.
"I'm happy it came because it has been all over the world," said Sophia Makinaw, 11. "It reminds me of Christ's love."
"It's a great privilege for me to be able to touch this symbol of God's love," said Kinga Kolonko, a 24-year-old postulant with the Sisters of Merciful Jesus, who have a convent in town. "For me it was a very spiritual experience."
Parishioners from Hobbema, Wetaskiwin and Ponoka took part in the celebrations at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Another 50 people, mostly inmates and prison personnel, took part in a prayer service and veneration at the Pe-Saskatew Centre, a medium security prison near town.
In Hobbema, the cross was placed near the altar across from a portrait of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk known for her love of the cross.
Father Mitchell Fidyka, pastor of the parishes of Hobbema, Wetaskiwin and Ponoka, led the opening prayer and Indian leader Willie Littlechild welcomed the cross on behalf of Hobbema residents.
During the ceremony, people venerated the cross in small groups. Two elders prayed in Cree for the youth of all three parishes who will go to World Youth Day. Some 100 are expected to attend.
Wildcat, a student at Radway's Bible School, spoke about Blessed Kateri and her love for the cross. Born in New York in 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior, Kateri was converted as a teenager. She was baptized at age 20 and soon after she came to Canada, where she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and the care of the old and the sick.
She was devoted to the Eucharist and Jesus crucified, said Wildcat. One of Kateri's favourite devotions was to fashion crosses out of sticks and place them throughout the woods. These crosses served as stations that reminded her to spend a moment in prayer.
"She had a deep love for the cross," Wildcat said. "She realized that Jesus had suffered for her on the cross and she wanted to (undergo) the same suffering."
Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri died April 7, 1680 at the age of 24. She was beatified in 1980. Native communities across Canada and the U.S. eagerly anticipate her canonization, which some hope will happen during World Youth Day. Her feast day is July 14.
Wildcat is one who will go to Toronto next year. "I really want to be there," she said. "I know it'll bring me closer to Jesus."
Keith Effert, 17, who attended the services at the church and prison and then followed the cross to Lacombe and Red Deer, was happy to see the cross going to every corner of the archdiocese.
"It's so neat to see it visit small communities like this," he said. "It means that God is looking over all the little places." Effert, a Wetaskiwin resident, will also attend WYD in Toronto.
Terry Buffalo, Jr., 22, feels fortunate he was asked to help carry the cross in the brief procession. "This cross was blessed by the pope and has been all over the world and I got to carry it," he said. "I feel so privileged."
Buffalo prayed for his family and for the troubled youth of Hobbema at the foot of the cross.
"I believe the cross came to Hobbema because the Lord wanted to remind people of his love for them," said Sister Josefina Pollentes, superior of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus.
Alec Piche, chair of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows' pastoral council, said it's a blessing the cross stopped at his parish. "We've never had something like this. This is a wake up call for all of us to get closer to the Lord."
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