Dear friends in Christ,

Our country's Native peoples are the true "first Americans."  I'm very grateful for my own Native American ancestry (Prairie Band Potawatomi).  Yet the history of America's Native peoples has often been difficult, and the challenges facing them -- even today -- remain complex. 

This makes the Church's outreach to Native Americans all the more important.  Jesus Christ transcends sin and cultural divides.  Only He can heal the wounds, some of which linger today, of the many past conflicts that shaped this nation's growth across a continent.  The task of the Church in our time is to be the presence of Jesus Christ to Native peoples, providing support, solace, encouragement and the Gospel of salvation.  She also has the task of defending the dignity of Native Americans, deepening their self-respect as children of God, and insisting on that same respect for Native Americans from wider American culture.  This is worthy and rewarding ministry.  I'm proud of the Catholic community in the United States for embracing it.  And I invite others to join in it.

May Saint Kateri Tekakwitha grant all of us a spark of her faith and zeal, and may God use us to be a source of hope and confidence for all our Native people.

+ Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, Subcommittee on Native American Affairs