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Native American clears hurdle to sainthood

Miracle attributed to Kateri Tekakwitha’s intervention

SEATTLE (CNS) -- Elsa and Donny Finkbonner of St. Joseph Parish in Ferndale had no doubt that their young son’s recovery from a deadly flesh-eating bacteria almost six years ago was a miracle.
On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that when he signed a decree acknowledging a miracle attributed to the intervention of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in the recovery of Jake Finkbonner from the rare and potentially fatal disease, necrotizing fascilitis.
In February 2006, just before his sixth birthday, the boy was playing basketball when he suffered a cut on his lip that enabled the bacteria to invade his bloodstream. Days later, he was near death at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle.

Because the family is part Native American, Father Tim Sauer, then-St. Joseph pastor, suggested they pray to God through Blessed Kateri (1656-1680), a Mohawk woman who devoted her short life to her Catholic faith and to caring for the sick and elderly. Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, she was beatified in 1980, the first native North American to be so honored. Her feast day is July 14.
Jake beat the odds and recovered, and with the approval of then-Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle, the case of Blessed Kateri’s intercession was investigated as the possible one remaining miracle needed for her canonization.
The Finkbonners were elated upon receiving the news -- and of their son’s part in it.
“It’s so overwhelmingly exciting, and just an honorable process to be a part of,” Elsa Finkbonner said Dec. 20.
She said Jake, now a sixth-grader at Assumption School in Bellingham, is “pretty excited about it,” too.
“It’s been five years in the making, so he’s pretty excited that everything is all coming to light and that it’s all happening,” she told The Catholic Northwest Progress, Seattle archdiocesan newspaper.
Finkbonner said Jake also is looking forward to meeting the pope when the canonization takes place.
“There’s no doubt in mine and Donny’s mind that Jake’s survival is in fact a miracle,” she said. “And we did everything that Father Tim had asked us to do in praying for her intercession. And others prayed for him. So I’m happy that the Vatican has honored Jake to be the last miracle in (Blessed) Kateri becoming a saint.”
Father Sauer said he thought it was appropriate that the news of Blessed Kateri’s upcoming canonization should come during Advent. Just as God chose ordinary people in Mary and Joseph to be the “instruments of that miracle” of the birth of Jesus, “God continues to do miracles today to strengthen people’s faith and to use ordinary people like (Blessed) Kateri and Jake Finkbonner,” he said.
He said Jake’s recovery was a “great testament” to the faith of the Finkbonners, the Native American Catholics on the Lummi Reservation and people all over the world who were praying for the boy.
Blessed Kateri’s canonization will be a boost to Native American Catholics across the country, he added.
“I think this is a real affirmation and encouragement to Native American Catholics who continue to live their Catholic faith, oftentimes in the face of a lot of criticism and opposition.”

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