Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Born: New York State, 1656
Died: Quebec, Canada, 1680

Feast Days: April 17 (Canada), July 14 (USA)

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk laywoman in 17th century New York state and Canada. Because of the spread of European diseases among Native Americans (both unintentionally and at times intentionally), her immediate biological family died when she was four years old. From that time, she was raised by her uncle, a Mohawk chief.

 

Throughout her teen years and to her adoptive family’s displeasure, she refused to marry. She accepted baptism at the age of 20 from a Jesuit missionary who visited her tribe and from that time, she devoted her virginity to Jesus. Because of her imitation of the Virgin Mary’s virginity, she is known today as the “Lily of the Mohawk.”

 

Her acceptance of Christianity put her at odds with her tribe, leading to her decision to leave her relatives and relocate to a nearby Christian community. In this exile, she prayed for the conversion of her tribe and offered to God sometimes extreme forms of self-mortification, perhaps best understood in terms of her grief over her separation (both physical and spiritual) from her tribe. She died in 1680 at the age of 24 and was the first Native North American to be canonized a saint.

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Suggested Books

  • Kateri Tekakwitha: The Iroquois Saint by Fr. Pierre Cholonec (Amazon)

  • For Children: Kateri Tekakwitha: Model of Bravery by Barbara Yoffie (Amazon)

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