A new documentary is examining the rich history of Native American Catholic witness. Enduring Faith: The Story of Native American Catholicism, a feature produced by the Knights of Columbus, is playing on ABC TV affiliate stations on Sundays.
The film frames the historical contributions of Native American Catholics as “a missing piece to the greater story of Catholicism in America.” In order to do this, they go back nearly 500 years, to when Catholicism was first introduced to North America. In a press release, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said:
“The history and deeply ingrained traditions of Native American Catholics demonstrate how Christ reveals himself through the uniqueness of every culture. Our hope is that this film will inspire a greater appreciation of the faithful witness of Native American Catholics.”
The documentary opens in the 16th century, when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. It then follows the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (d. 1680) the first Native American saint to be canonized. As it catches up to modern times it touches on Nicholas Black Elk, a 20th-century healer whose cause for canonization is still open.
At each historical stop the film makes, it examines the spiritual and cultural gifts of the Native Americans. As it progresses, the documentary makes note of the struggles Native Americans faced before colonists came on the scene. Finally, Enduring Faith documents the culture of modern Native American Catholics.
Catholic World Report interviewed Father Henry Sands, executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office, on the documentary. Fr. Sands, who is one of the speakers in the film, said of the work:
“We know that there is a lot of negative history in the interaction between the native people and the peoples who came from Europe,” he said. “At the same time, one of the positive things that took place is that the gospel did come to the people of the Americas. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been thriving among native peoples since it was first brought here.”
Enduring Faith: The Story of Native American Catholicism was originally released on May 16. Since then, it has aired weekly on ABC TV affiliates. The documentary is still being run on Sundays. Visit the Knights of Columbus website to see the schedule.