On November 21, 2021, the Sunday following the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne on November 18, the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, Joseph Naumann, will honor Potawatomi Elder Jerry Tuckwin with the 2021 Duchesne Award for his three decades of leadership to native youth. This award is given each year to an individual/community who promotes Catholic education, vocations to priesthood and religious life and/or devotion to Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne.
Jerry Tuckwin, 79, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, who is now retired, was a coach at Haskell University, where he spent 32 years guiding Native American youth. Tuckwin not only led youth in sports but he, and his wife, Terry, established a Catholic center in 1970 across street from Haskell so Mass would be easily available for college students to attend. They also held regular “talking circles” (a Native practice) about the Bible and other religious topics as well as praying the rosary.
Tuckwin, of Lawrence, Kansas, was nominated for the award by the retired Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput, who himself is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation based in Mayetta, Kansas. Tuckwin and his wife, Terry, were guests of Archbishop Chaput in Rome for the canonizations of both Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. According to Father Barry Clayton, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Mound City, Kansas, Mrs. Tuckman, who is a retired kindergarten teacher, will be recognized along with her husband.
Jerry Tuckwin said that he feels a strong connection between Saint Philippine and his Potawatomi ancestors who marched on the Trail of Death in 1838 from Indiana to northeastern Kansas. Although Philippine was elderly when she arrived there in 1841 and didn't speak the Potawatomi language, her example of constant prayer was a great influence in building the Native peoples' faith, Jerry said. She was known by the Potawatomi as “the woman who prays always.”
“I really feel strongly that she brought Catholicism to the Potawatomi at Sugar Creek,” he said. There were 100 Native Americans baptized when she arrived and another 100 were welcomed into the Church by the time she left a year later due to ill health, he explained.
The ceremony is open to the public and begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 21 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Mound City, Kansas, and will be streamed live on the Church's YouTube channel.
Janet A. Pearl and Flávia Bader contributed to this article. Photo courtesy of The Leaven/Jay Soldner