Where Sunday Mass is in Mohawk
Five hundred years after Christianity came to America, thousands of Native American worshippers seamlessly blend ancient traditions with Catholic rites—and even earn a little respect from Rome.
Photos by Adrienne Surprenant
It is the morning of Sunday, April 27, 2014, at the Saint Regis Catholic Mission Church on the Canadian side of the Akwesasne Reservation. Cars jam into the parking lot of the property, which abuts the Saint Lawrence River – a large, slow-moving waterway dotted with islands as far as the eye can see. The grass that stretches around the church and rectory is already green, while purple buds on leafless trees only hint at the arrival of spring.
The predominantly Mohawk crowd files into the 200-year-old stone church for an inculturated feast-day Mass that promises to blend elements of their own indigenous spiritual practices, such as smudging and prayers to the creator, into the rituals of the Catholic faith.
Some wear traditional dress: colorful shirts for the men and dresses for the women – with leggings, breechcloths, ribbon-work, beaded collars and symbolic tribal and clan-related patterns embroidered into the fabric.
The otherwise simple interior of the chu…