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A local boy's miracle elevates Native American to sainthoodOctober 21, 2012 @ 7:21 am (Updated: 6:12 am - 10/22/12 )
Ferndale boy was so close to death after flesh-eating bacteria infected him through a cut on his lip that his parents had last rites performed and were discussing donating his organs.
Jake Finkbonner's 2006 cure from the infection seemed to be a miracle to the family, and now he's helped propel a 17th century Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha, to sainthood.
Kateri was canonized a Saint at the Vatican on Sunday, along with six other people, the first Native American to receive the honor.
Jake's family is convinced that Kateri's intercession saved him.
Once pictured on the family's website with a distorted and destroyed face, Jake is now a 12-year-old who participates in all the things his friends can do. He's into basketball and cross-country running.
"I believe everybody has a purpose on this earth," Jake's mother Elsa Finkbonner told the Associated Press at the Vatican. "I think this Sunday Jake will define his purpose, and that's to make Kateri a saint."
Jake adds that being in Rome for the ceremony is "a really special thing."
The Catholic Church creates saints to hold up models for the faithful, convinced that their lives - even lived hundreds of years ago - are still relevant to today's Catholics.
Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks," Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother in what is today upstate New York.
Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight.
She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized Catholic by Jesuit missionaries. She was ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith, and she died in Canada when she was 24.
The Finkbonner's local priest, who performed the last rites ritual on Jake when it seemed he would die because of the flesh-eating bacteria, urged his congregation to pray to Kateri.
For the devoutly Catholic Finkbonners, prayer was all they had left after Jake's doctors tried unsuccessfully for two weeks to stop the bacteria's spread. Jake was in a drug-induced coma for most of that time and says he doesn't remember much.
"Every day it would seem the news would get worse," Jake's father Donny recalled. "I remember the last day that we met with the whole group of doctors, Elsa didn't even want to hear. She just got behind me and was holding on."
They didn't get bad news.
The doctors said the infection had stopped. They couldn't explain it, but gradually the boy became stronger.
Today Jake has some scars from his ordeal, but is otherwise healthy. He still calls on Saint Kateri for help.
"Kateri was placed on this earth, and she has interceded on many people's behalf, she has defined her purpose," his mom says. "I think Jake has bigger, larger plans in store for him."
By LINDA THOMAS, I grew up in a house surrounded by pictures of saints. Someday I'll share the story of how I believe Saint Theresa helped me.
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