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August 10, 2012

Akwesasne artist's work heading to Vatican

AKWESASNE — An Akwesasne artist’s depiction of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha will soon be on its way to the Vatican.

Jordan Thompson’s representation of Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be considered for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, was selected in a competition to be her official portrait at the Vatican. Many from the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation will make the journey to Vatican City and Rome on Oct. 21 for the canonization ceremony and a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Thompson said his pen-and-ink drawing will be featured at future conferences and on a new prayer card that is in the works. The first 5,000 cards, he said, are expected to be blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. 

Debbie Thomas, the St. Regis Mission Church liaison, had asked Thompson to submit an entry, and his was chosen by Catholic Church officials during last month’s Kateri Tekakwitha Peace Conference in Albany.

HER NATIVE SIDE

Thompson, who is the first Mohawk artist to portray Tekakwitha, said he felt the symbolism was important. 

“I was really trying to get the symbolism of her native side,” he said, adding that past portraits featured the typical “native look,” showing her with braided hair.

In Thompson’s rendition, Tekakwitha’s hair flows out from under her shawl, which she always wore over her head. 

“She never wore her hair in braids. That’s a very important part of what Debbie Thomas wanted in there,” he said. 

Because Tekakwitha was a member of the Turtle Clan, a turtle is featured in the drawing, along with 24 lilies representing each year of her life. 

“She was known as the Lily of the Mohawks or Lily of the Thorns,” said Thompson, who shares Tekakwitha’s Catholic faith and is also of the Turtle Clan.

The “Three Sisters” of corn, beans and squash are pictured, as one of her tasks was working in the garden, where she would construct a wooden cross tied with a rope. The artist included a rosary since she always had it beside her.

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