Farewell Mass for Bishop Conley to honor canonization of Blessed Kateri
By Roxanne King
Photo by James Baca/DCR
On Oct. 21, Bishop James Conley will celebrate a farewell Mass to the archdiocese in the same place where he was elevated to the episcopacy, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver.
The 6:30 p.m. Mass, which is open to all, will also honor Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who will be canonized earlier that day in Rome.
Bishop Conley, who was named bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., last month, will be installed in his new see on Nov. 20.
“I was already scheduled to celebrate the Oct. 21 Mass in honor of the canonization of Blessed Kateri because of my Native American ancestry,” Bishop Conley said, “so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to say goodbye in a formal way to the entire archdiocesan community. And there is no place better to do this, than the ‘Mother Church’ of the archdiocese and the church where I was consecrated a bishop four years ago.”
Of Wea Indian heritage, Bishop Conley traces his Native American roots to his paternal grandmother.
“Her grandfather married a full-blooded Indian princess from the Wea tribe, Mary Dagenette, or Mary of Many Nations, as she was known. The Wea Indian tribe is part of the larger Miami Nation,” he explained. “Our tribe was always very small, never growing beyond 250 members. The Wea tribe is also among the Algonquin language sect, the same as Blessed Kateri. There is a small town of Wea in Kansas, south of Kansas City, where my ancestors are buried. Most of my college education was paid for by a settlement from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to our family.”
Deacon Charles Parker, director of the Office of Liturgy, said parishioners of the Kateri Catholic Community in Lakewood, some of whom plan to wear traditional tribal attire, will fulfill some liturgical roles at the Mass.
“(We’ll also) use a long-standing custom, smudging, which is using incense with an eagle feather,” Deacon Parker said. “Smudging can only be done by a Native American, due to the sacredness of the eagle feather. Bishop Conley, being from the Wea tribe, will be employing this tradition.”
Blessed Kateri, known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in New York. Orphaned at age 4, she was raised by anti-Christian relatives. Baptized at age 20, she died four years later in Canada. In June 1980, she became the first Native American to be beatified.
“I didn’t think I’d be alive when she was canonized,” marveled Margaret Tranekier, director of religious education for the Kateri community. “I think it’s just wonderful.”
New holy cards honoring the canonization have been ordered and are hoped to be available at the Mass, Deacon Parker said.
In addition to the Kateri community, deacons too are especially invited to the Mass as a final opportunity to celebrate the liturgy with Bishop Conley. But the bishop emphasized that the liturgy is for all the faithful.
Masses with Bishop Conley
While the 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21 Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is the formal farewell Mass for Bishop James Conley, there are three other Masses this month he will celebrate or concelebrate that are open to the public. They are listed below.
Oct. 11: 5:30 p.m. - Opening Mass for the Year of Faith (concelebrating with Archbishop Samuel Aquila), Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 1530 Logan St., Denver
Oct. 13: 8 a.m. - Mass prior to Symposium on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Paul II Center, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Oct. 20: 8:30 a.m. - White Mass at Risen Christ Church, 3060 S. Monoco Parkway, Denver
“Denver has been my home for the past four years and I have come to know and love the people of northern Colorado very much,” he said. “I was welcomed with open arms and warm hearts from the very first day I arrived. It was here that I learned how to be a bishop.
“Under the mentorship of Archbishop (Charles) Chaput and, now, Archbishop (Samuel) Aquila, my longtime friend,” he added, “I have learned so much about what it means to be a good, loving and courageous shepherd, after the heart of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.”
After the Mass, Bishop Conley plans to greet every person in attendance who wishes to say goodbye.
“I look forward to this very much,” he said.
Bishop Conley will leave for Nebraska in early November to settle into his new home before attending the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore, taking place the week before his installation.
“Denver has been very good to me and I will always cherish my time here,” he said. “I will take a part of Denver with me to Lincoln and I will certainly keep the people of Denver in my prayers as I begin my new pastoral ministry.
“I ask all of you to remember me in your prayers,” he said. “Please know that my heart is filled with gratitude for all you have been to me. Cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart)!”