Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is also known as Lily of the Mohawks, Catherine Tekakwitha, Protectress of Canada, or Tegakwitha. She was born in 1656 at Osserneon (now known as Auriesville), New York, USA and died on April 17 1680 at Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada. Her feast day is celebrated on July 14 in the United States and April 17 in the rest of the world.
|Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Biography|
|Date of Birth||1656|
|Place of Birth||Osserneon (now known as Auriesville), New York, USA|
|Profession||Religious ascetic and laywoman|
|Place of Work||Canada|
|Date of Death||April 17 1680|
|Place of Death||Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada|
|Feast Day||July 14 in the US and April 17 elsewhere|
|Beatification||By Pope John Paul II on June 22 1980 in Vatican City|
|Canonization||By Pope Benedict XVI on October 21 2012 in Vatican City|
|Patron Saint of||
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Life History
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon (now called Auriesville) in Northeastern New York state. She had a younger sibling brother. Her father was a Mohawk chief and was called Kenneronkwa. Her mother was called Kahenta. She was from a different tribe called Algonquin and had been captured during one of the Mohawk raids. She had been educated in Trois-Rivières, Montreal by the French missionaries and baptized as a Catholic.
The name Tekakwitha in the Mohawk language means “She who bumps into things.”
From 1661 to 1663, the village of the Mohawks was infested with deadly smallpox which killed Tekakwitha’s parents and brother. Kateri Tekakwitha survived but was left with impaired eyesight and scars on her face. Her father’s sister and her husband adopted her and moved to Caughnawaga.
Tekakwitha avoided social gatherings because of the smallpox scars on her face which she covered with a blanket. She acquired skills in weaving baskets, mats, and boxes from reeds, making clothing and belts from animal skins and preparing food.
At the age of thirteen years, she started receiving pressure to get married but she refused.
In 1666, the French colonialists burnt down the Mohawk village and their crops too. This forced Tekakwitha and her adoptive family to flee from the raid into the forest. The French facilitated the Jesuit missionaries to settle and start missions in Auriesville, New York. This is when Tekakwitha met with the Jesuit missionaries Jacques Bruyas, Jacques Frémin and Jean Pierron against the wish of her uncle, who was opposed to Christianity.
There was a raid at their village in 1669 by the Mohican warriors but the Mohawk people won the war and Tekakwitha was able to help Father Jean Pierron to tend to the wounded and bury the dead.
Around 1673, when Tekakwitha was 17 years old, her adoptive mother and aunt were becoming impatient with her for not being interested in marriage. They tried to trick her into marriage with a young Mohawk man but she fled and hid in a nearby field. More pressure was exerted on her to submit to marriage but Tekakwitha vehemently refused. Finally, her relatives gave up their quest to get her to marry.
In 1674, at 18 years, Tekakwitha met Fr. Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit priest, and told him she wanted to become a Christian. She studied catechism and on Easter Sunday, April 18 1676 she was baptized by the priest. She took the name Catherine after St Catherine of Siena. The Mohawk people pronounced the name as ‘Kateri’.
In 1677, Her conversion to Christianity did not go down well with some members of her community. They accused her of sorcery. Fr Jacques de Lamberville planned that she goes to the Jesuit mission of Kahnawake, in Montreal along the St. Lawrence River.
Tekakwitha used to lie on a mat with thorns while praying to God to convert and forgive her relatives. For the remaining two years of her life, she lived at Kahnawake where under Anastasia, her mentor she was taught about repentance for one’s sins.
The Jesuit priest Pierre Cholenec was the one who introduced whips as a form of self-mortification to those who had converted at Kahnawake. This was to counter the Mohawk ritual of piercing themselves and drawing their blood to offer to their pagan gods.
When Kateri Tekakwitha practiced this new Catholic mode of mortification, her health worsened because she would also fast, and if she decided to eat, she would make her food sour to diminish its flavor. Claude Chauchetière, the Jesuit priest, advised her to do it in moderation.
In 1679, Tekakwitha took a vow of chastity and said that after long deliberation, she had made the decision that she will consecrate herself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, and he alone will take her as a wife. She, therefore, became the first adult virgin among the Mohawk.
In Kahnawake, Kateri Tekakwitha had a strong bond with Marie Thérèse Tegaianguenta and Marie Skarichions who they prayed with together. They felt a deep desire to start a community of the native disciples but after they sought the Jesuits for direction, they were told they were too young for such a strenuous mission.
St Kateri Tekakwitha’s Death
Tekakwitha died in Kahnawake at 3 p.m. on Wednesday of the Holy Week, April 17 1680, at the age of 24. She died in the arms of Marie Thérèse Tegaianguenta after Fr. Pierre Cholenec provided the last rites. Her final words were “Jesus, Mary, I love you.”
Immediately she died her face that had scars became so smooth, scarless and beautiful, and a smile came upon her lips.
After Kateri Tekakwitha died she appeared to three People
To her mentor Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo she appeared to her and knelt at the end of her mattress, holding a wooden cross that shone like the sun.
To her friend Marie-Therèse Tegaiaguentain she awoke her at night with a knock on her wall, asked her if she was awake, and told her goodbye, she is going to heaven. When Marie-Therese went to see who was tlking to her she saw no one but heard another soft voice saying, “Adieu, Adieu, go tell the father that I’m going to heaven.”
To Fr. Claude Chauchetiere she appeared to him when he had visited her grave. She appeared in an awesome splendor and for two hours he gazed upon her, then her face lifted towards heaven as if in ecstasy.
The process for Kateri Tekakwitha’s beatification and canonization began in the United States by the Catholics in 1885, at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore then Canadian Catholics followed suit.
She was declared venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3 1943 and was beatified on June 22 1980 by Pope John Paul II as Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha.
St Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and became the first Native American woman of North America to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
Fr. Claude Chauchetiere built a chapel near Kateri Tekakwitha’s gravesite where here remains are preserved. Some bones were turned into ashes by the Jesuits to symbolize her presence on earth. Her grave became a pilgrimage site and place of miracles for Christian Native Americans and French colonists
St Kateri Tekakwitha Major Shrines and Features
- The statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha outside the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec, Canada.
- The statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha in The Maryknoll Sisters at Ossining, New York.
- The statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York
- The National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods, an open-air sanctuary in Indian River, Michigan.
- The National Shrine of St Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, New York;
- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
- An image of St Kateri on the wall of St. Mary of the Cataract Catholic Church in Niagara Falls, New York.
- A statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha releasing a flight of doves in the garden section of the Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum in North Arlington, New Jersey.
- A statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha in the courtyard of St. Patrick’s church in the St. Stanislaus Kostka parish of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- A statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha at the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York.
- A statue of St Kateri in St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Rogers, Arkansas.
- A statue of St Kateri at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Page, Arizona.
- A statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Saint John Neumann Catholic Church, Sunbury, Ohio
- A statue in the courtyard at Saint Joseph Husband of Mary Catholic Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- A statue at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church in Sisseton, South Dakota.
- A Place of Hope Shrine of St Kateri in Paris, Stark County, Ohio.
- A figure of St Kateri Tekakwitha on the front doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
- A bronze statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha kneeling in prayer along the devotional walkway en route to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Schools, Churches and features
- St Kateri Tekakwitha School in Calgary, Alberta.
- St Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Markham, Ontario, Canada
- St Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
- St Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
- Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Schenectady, New York
- Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School, Niskayuna, New York
- Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic School in Orléans, Ottawa),Ontario, Canada
- Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Parish, Santa Clarita, California
- Lodge of Ondessonk and Tekakwitha, Ozark, Illinois, United States
- Kateri Tekakwitha Island in the St-Lawrence River, Kahnawake Reserve, Canada
- Kateri Residence – Nursing Home, in Manhattan, New York
St Kateri Tekakwitha’s Miracles
In the eighteenth century, there was a protestant child called Joseph Kellogg who caught smallpox. The Jesuits tried to treat him but in vain. They knew that St Kateri Tekakwitha’s relics had healing miracles but they did not want to use it for the boy was a non-Catholic. A Jesuit told Joseph Kellogg that if he became a Catholic help would come his way and the boy became a Catholic. Joseph Kellogg was given a piece of wood from Kateri’s coffin, and he was healed.
A priest called Father Remy was healed from his hearing problem. Fr. Chauchetière used to tell his converts to pray to Kateri to intercede for them for healing. People would scoop the soil from her gravesite and they would testify of its healing power.
Another miracle, that helped Kateri’s canonization, happened in 2006 when a boy in Washington State was healed from a deadly bacterial infection. After the doctors tried all means to cure him, they failed and advised his parents that he would die. On December 19, 2011, After receiving the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the boy’s parents, relatives, friends, and classmates sought the intervention of St Kateri Tekakwitha through prayers. When Sister Kateri Mitchell visited the bedridden boy, she placed a Tekakwitha’s bone fragment on his body and, together with his parents, prayed. The deadly bacterial infection stopped its progression the following day.
St Kateri Tekakwitha is the Patron Saint of
- Ecologists, environmentalists
- Ecology, environment
- Against the loss of parents
- People ridiculed for their piety
- Native Americans
- Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico
- John Cabot Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga
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