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Story of Saint Kateri

Feast Day: July 14
Patron of: Environment and Ecology
Declared Venerable: 1943
Beatified: 1980
Canonized: 2012
Known as: Lily of the Mohawks

Prayer of Blessed Kateri: 

"Lord God, You called the virgin Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, to shine among the Native American people as an example of healthiness for life, happiness in spite of hardship, and holiness in light of your glorious creation. Through her example, may we, your people of every tribe, tongue and nation, having been gathered into Your Presence, proclaim your greatness, honor your creation, and inspire others to live in serenity, harmony, and integrity with You, our neighbor, and your creation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen"

On October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict canonized Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, making her the first Native North American saint. Our Camp Kateri celebration of some 300 faithful began with a Mass during which his Excellency Fabian Bruskewitz blessed the Camp’s St. Kateri Grotto and a new cross built by the Boy Scouts.

We are proud to have such a wonderful saint to intercede for us and also inspire us to respect God and all his creation. Kateri Tekakwitha lived a short life, yet found peace and harmony in her devotion to creation and the Eucharist. May her life inspire us to endure the hardships in our own lives knowing that Our Savior, Jesus Christ, comes to us to heal and strengthen us with courage and devotion.

Life of Kateri Tekakwitha

Born in c.1656 in a Mohawk village in present-day New York, she lost all of her immediate family members to a smallpox epidemic around the age of four. The disease left her permanently scarred and partially blind. Taken in by Algonquin relatives, the tribe named her Tekakwitha (various translations include “she who bumps into things” and “one who places things in order”).

After her adoption and recovery, Tekakwitha’s life was, by all accounts, very much like many other Indian girls of her time, but, there was significant turmoil caused by tensions with rival tribes and associated alliances with French and Dutch traders. An invasion, war, and a treaty brought Jesuit missionaries into Tekakwitha’s village when she was about 10 years old. These visitors provoked memories from early childhood of the stories about Jesus told by her mother, who had been baptized Catholic.

Despite significant pressure from and sometimes, even mistreatment by her relatives, Tekakwitha’s interest in the Lord continued to grow. In addition to spending time with the Jesuits in the area, she refused the many attempts by her family to marry. Around the age of eighteen, having declared her desire to become a Christian, she began receiving instruction in the catechism from a Jesuit priest and was baptized in April 1676 as Catherine – in honor of St. Catherine of Sienna. Kateri is a Mohawk translation of Catherine in French.

While she remained with her family for a while after her baptism, she was treated as an outcast and threatened with death. She fled to a Jesuit mission in Montreal, Canada, in 1677. Once there, she taught children, tended to the sick, and spent much of her time in prayer and penitential practices. She crafted crosses out of sticks, placing them throughout the woods where she frequently walked as a reminder to stop for a moment of prayer.

In 1679, she made a vow of perpetual virginity. She requested permission to start a convent for Native American sisters but was discouraged at that time by the Jesuits, due to the “youth of her faith”. She and close friend and prayer partner Marie-Thérèse formed an informal group with other devoted young women.

Kateri’s always poor health was exacerbated by her frequently strenuous penitential practices, despite adviser Father Pierre Cholonec’s admonishments to take better care of herself. She died on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 1680. Father Cholonec, Marie-Thérèse, and another priest present at her death reported that within minutes of her passing, the ever-present smallpox scars disappeared from her face and she became beautiful.

Kateri had a notable impact on people during her life – a small crowd always gathered around her at church and when she walked through the mission village. If asked why they gathered, people reported they felt the presence of God when around Kateri and that her face changed, becoming beautiful and peaceful when she prayed. Kateri’s impact on others continued to grow after her death, with prayers of intercession to her practiced and spreading among the Jesuits and their converts as far away as China within several years.

Materials for this page were derived from multiple sources, including: “Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Model Ecologist”, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center “Kateri Tekakwitha”

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