Michael May of Amsterdam told the other passengers on the coach bus to grab a chair.
The collapsible seat that can also double as a cane will be needed Sunday, when May will be among 200 Catholics from the Albany Diocese who will be outdoors at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City for the six-hour service to canonize seven new saints, including Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American woman to achieve sainthood. Thousands are expected to attend from all over the world.
“We wouldn’t be able to stand all that time,” he said before he boarded the bus Tuesday at the Rosa Road location of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish.
“I’ve always been a very devout Catholic. It’s quite an honor for our diocese to have a saint canonized,” he added.
Born in 1656 as the daughter of a captive Catholic-Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief in what is now Auriesville, Kateri expressed a desire to convert to Catholicism, despite resistance from others in the tribe, according to Thomas Sharrow, deacon for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish.
“She was baptized in the stream of Fonda,” he said.
Kateri survived the smallpox outbreak in the village that killed her parents but was left scarred and nearly blinded. She led a life of praying and strict devotion to the Eucharist.
She later moved to a village near Montreal, where she died at the age of 24 from exposure due to her extensive praying outdoors in cold weather.
A miracle was attributed to Kateri when a 5-year-old boy from Washington state named Jake Finkbonner recovered from a flesh-eating bacteria that almost killed him in 2006. His parents prayed to Kateri.
Sharrow said it didn’t hit him until Tuesday morning that he was going to witness a canonization for the first time. This event is also special because it celebrates the new Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, which was created on July 1 with the merger of St. Helen’s and Our Lady of Fatima churches.
“It’s a new beginning for us,” he said.
Ann Mahon also was excited about taking the trip. She is also from Fonda and has frequently attended services at the Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine.
“I’ve known about Kateri Tekakwitha since I was a child,” she said.
Gloria Conde of Schenectady said she hoped to see Pope Benedict XVI up close. “Everybody says ‘shake hands with the pope,’ ” she said.
Another New York woman also is being made a saint — Blessed Marianne Cope of Syracuse, who worked with lepers in Hawaii in the 19th and 20th century and never contracted the disease herself.
Buses also departed from the Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville and St. Pius X Church in Loudonville en route to New York City area airports, from which they will fly to Rome.
Bishop Howard J. Howard, who departed from Loudonville, said in a news release that Kateri Tekakwitha represents more than the first Native American to be canonized.
“She stands also as a model for the unity of peoples and the ability of people with physical disabilities to bear witness to the Gospel through a life of service. May her prayers for us help us to be courageous and compassionate in our own evangelization efforts,” he said.