Mass of Healing in Remembrance of the Miami Tribe

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One of the beautiful blessings of our diocese is the rich tapestry of culture, spirituality and grace within our Church. We are a diverse community here and throughout the United States, indeed, throughout the world. There is joy and wonder in encountering Christ in the people and families of different races, cultures and languages. And here in our diocese, the first communities of faith included our Native American brothers and sisters of the Potawatomi and Miami tribes. As I have tried to find the roots of the Catholic faith of the Miami peoples who settled in this Fort Wayne side of the diocese, I discovered that some were probably Catholic when they arrived here from Wisconsin in the 1700s. The Miami peoples had learned of Christ and the Gospel from Jesuit missionaries back in the 1600s. In fact, I learned that Father Jacques Marquette had Miami guides for his voyage down the Mississippi River. The Miamis listened eagerly to the teachings of the missionaries. The French priests respected the language and culture of the Miamis. They were edified by their great respect for the land and rivers, forests and plains. They wrote about their gentleness and friendliness. At the same time, many of the Miamis were attracted by the missionaries’ proclamation of the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. They even asked the missionaries to set up a large cross in their village. This is how evangelization should take place. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case in history.

In 1537, Pope Paul Ill proclaimed the dignity and rights of the native peoples of the Americas by insisting that they not be deprived of their freedom or the possession of their property. Not all Catholics followed this teaching of the Church, nor did other Christians live up to their Christian responsibilities. Many, as we know, exploited the native peoples. We must ask forgiveness, our recent Popes have said, for the offenses and crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America. At the same time, we should also give thanks for the good missionaries, the many bishops, priests and laity who preached the Gospel with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying them even to the point of martyrdom. Francis has said the following: “Let us say NO to forms of colonialism old and new. Let us say YES to the encounter between peoples and cultures.” At this Mass, we say “NO” to what happened to the Miami peoples here in Fort Wayne 175 years ago. We say “YES” to the encounter between peoples and cultures that takes plac