LEXINGTON—The Native American Catholics’ Heritage Celebration provided a most appropriate backdrop for a discussion on stewardship.
With “We Are the Guardians of Creation” as the theme for this year’s celebration, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone was quick to recognize the group that promoted and lived up to that idea in America hundreds of years ago.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize that when the Holy Father talks about this Earth, take those words seriously,” Bishop Guglielmone said during the Nov. 11 celebration at Corpus Christi Church. “But look who I’m talking to. In terms of taking an appreciation of the world and ecology, Native Americans taught us all of this a long time ago in the way they looked at the Earth as a gift, as something that needed to be cared for.”
The event’s keynote speaker, Father Maurice Sands, reiterated the Church’s call for justice and common sense in remaining true to that theme. He cited writings from Pope Francis and current environmental issues such as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
“God has entrusted stewardship of the Earth to us and given us dominion over the Earth,” Father Sands said. “That doesn’t mean that we can do what we want in that role. We have every responsibility to take good care of this place where we live.”
Father Sands is a full-blooded Native American belonging to the Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes. He was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit more than 20 years ago. He made his plea for responsible stewardship for the planet by referencing a couple of chapters from Pope Francis’ landmark 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home,” the first such document of its kind with an emphasis on ecological concerns.
“[Pope Francis] thinks a lot of people have forgotten that we have an interconnectedness with the Earth as well as with everyone with whom we share our home — this planet,” Father Sands said. “The well-being of our planet and our very own home is very much dependent on our stewardship of the gift of creation that has been given to us by God.”
Father Sands, who was appointed Director of Black and Indian Missions in Washington, D.C., last year, also asked the audience for prayers and resources to assist those taking part in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, a months-long standoff spearheaded by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Protesters cited grave environmental and religious issues if the 1,200-mile pipeline is allowed to be completed at its planned site in North Dakota. According to several media outlets, about 500 demonstrators left the site without incident on Nov. 12.
The annual celebration is sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Ethnic Ministries and has been held at Corpus Christi for the last several years. Father Sands also delivered the homily at a Native-American-themed Mass at the church on the Feast Day of St. Josaphat to kick off the event.
By Chip Lupo | Special to The Miscellany