75th Tekakwitha Conference underway in Fargo
Fargo, N.D. (WDAY-TV) – An annual conference started 75 years ago in Fargo is returning to town this weekend for a nearly five day event.
It’s expected that 140 different tribes from across the United States will be represented at the National Tekakwitha Conference at the Ramada Plaza Suites Conference Center from Wednesday to Saturday night.
The conference is named after Kateri Tekawitha, the first Native American canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, and includes nearly 1,000 participants including clergy and lay people.
"We affirm and deepen and nourish our Catholic faith while at the same time, (we are) bridging that (faith) and integrating it with all of our traditional ways," said executive director Sr. Kateri Mitchell.
The conference will include a keynote address from Mark Thiel, archivist of the Marquette University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives.
Thiel has extensive knowledge and collections relating to the Catholic Church and Native Americans.
The conference will also include Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Chaput is currently the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and is the chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on Native American Catholics.
The conference began in 1939 when Cardinal Aloysius Muench, the third bishop to the Diocese of Fargo (which then included both Dakotas), invited clergy from the region to gather and discuss how to help indigenous Catholics retain their unique cultural traditions.
Today, according to Mitchell, close to 95 percent of participants at the conference are lay people.
Mitchell, who has served as executive director for 15 years, said many of the participants attend the conference annually and use it to maintain friendships and stay in touch with religious leaders.
“It's not just an organization, it's not just a conference, but it is a family reunion,” said Mitchell.
To learn more about the conference and Kateri Ministries throughout the nation, click here.