GALLUP, N.M. (CNS) — The rosary walk at a new shrine to be built in the Gallup Diocese to honor St. Kateri Tekakwitha “will imitate” the life and example of the Native American saint, popularly known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” said Gallup Bishop James S. Wall, who had formerly been a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix.

“We will take advantage of the natural beauty that God offers to us, as the rosary will wind its way through the beautiful landscape that He has already given to us,” he added in remarks during the Aug. 11 groundbreaking for the shrine.

“We will rely on the intercession of Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who we know first appeared to an indigenous person, that being St. Juan Diego. And so, this shrine will be a special place for everyone, but especially to the indigenous people of this land, the Native American peoples of this land.”

Breaking ground for the St. Kateri Shrine in the Diocese of Gallup Aug. 11 were, from left to right, Pernell Halona, Navajo Nation Council Delegate; Gertrude Lee, from the Southwest Indian Foundation Board of Directors; Fr. Henry Sands, director of the National Black and Indian Mission Office and member of the Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi Tribes; Gallup Bishop James S. Wall; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; Victoria Begay, also a member of the Southwest Indian Foundation Board of Directors; Florence Sousea of Laguna Pueblo; Lily Etsitty, president of the Tohatchi Kateri Circle; Kathy Bowman, president of the Fort Defiance Kateri Circle; and Angela Riley, from Laguna Pueblo. (Courtesy of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico)

The shrine is being built through a new partnership of the diocese, the Knights of Columbus and the Southwest Indian Foundation. The Knights announced its participation in the initiative during its Supreme Convention in Minneapolis in early August.

The groundbreaking event featured drumming as well as the Butterfly and Eagle dances from members of the Laguna tribe. Besides Bishop Wall, others who spoke were Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Fr. Henry Sands, director of the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington.

“Today in the United States, as many as one in four Native Americans are Catholic. And yet, in many ways, these brothers and sisters in the faith have been forgotten,” said Anderson. “It is our hope that in the years to come, this St. Kateri Shrine will become a national spiritual home for Native Americans and for all Catholics.”

“This shrine is particularly meaningful for Native American Catholics because it’s dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha,” said Fr. Sands, a priest of the Detroit Archdiocese, who is a member of the Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the role that she plays in the Catholic Church, not just as an example for Native Americans, but for all Catholics. It’s also a recognition of Native people,” he said in his remarks. “To recognize a saint who is Native American and to have it located in this diocese, which has the highest percentage of Native American Catholics in the United States, is very significant.”

Construction on the new shrine began Aug. 12; the tentative date for its completion is August 2021. It is anticipated that the shrine will attract pilgrims and tourists from across North America and throughout the world to Gallup each year.

The shrine will include a chapel, museum and 30 outdoor rosary stations. Each station will be marked by a niche, and each niche will be designed by a Catholic artist from a distinct Native American tribe.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized as a saint in 2012 and is the first Native American Catholic saint. She is the patron saint of Native American, First Nations and indigenous peoples, including the Native American Ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix.