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Saint Ignatius Parish Native American Outreach

December 01, 2021

St. Ignatius Church

Every month at our Native American Heritage Mass, more than 50 people gather around the table of the Lord calling upon “Grandfather,” God who Created us, to hear their thanks and answer to their petitions. Before the celebration, at the entrance of the Church, the gathered worshipers are invited to bow to a crucifix set before a large abalone shell containing burning coals to drop a small amount of a mix of cedar, sweetgrass and juniper onto the coals for smudging, an act of healing and purification before the Eucharistic Celebration asking Creator God to cast all unholy thoughts and emotions to better benefit from the ceremony that is about to begin.

At Saint Ignatius Parish, Southern Ute culture, closely tied to the natural elements, is blended with our Catholic Faith in a unique and respectful way. This union, considered a blasphemous combination among some catholic circles, highlights the common ground that bridges our different traditions by enriching each other: Ceremonial Rituals and Spirituality.

Our Catholic Tradition, so rich in rituals and symbolisms, appeals to the piety of native American spirituality, because of its profound spiritual meaning. In accordance with Vatican II, by allowing the local people to express themselves through culture, our Southern Ute Catholic community is invited to express their Catholicism through that culture as well. For this reason, our eucharistic gatherings are an affirmation of God’s love for all His Creation providing an opportunity to our Native American Catholic Community to worship together and strengthen the relation of culture and spirituality with the one true faith. In our community, 20 percent of our members are Native American Catholics, that like many other cultures express a mixed religious practice with the incorporation of American Indian elements into the practice of their Catholic faith. Some of these practices consist of the use of Sundance prayer songs at mass, the carrying of the Sacred Pipe on religious pilgrimages, the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity and the saints at the beginning of the sweat lodge ceremony, and the invocation of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mother during traditional blessings of individuals.

At Saint Ignatius Parish our goal is to allow American Indians to see their culture appreciated by enriching Catholic Rituals. Praying and Singing in their traditional ways, embellishing the altar and priestly vestments with tribal flair helps individuals to interpret and deepen Catholic theology and our understanding of the sacred.