Kateri Tekakwitha (Lily of the Mohawks) - Mohawk

By Julia White
Kateri survived an epidemic of smallpox which killed her family, and which left her horribly scarred and almost blind. She was taken in by an uncle, and began studying at a nearby church school. She soon adopted Christianity and, true to her new beliefs, refused to work on Sunday, refused to marry, and refused to fulfill her other tribal obligations. Furious, her uncle punished her, withheld food from her and, when his cruelty did not work, he began threats against her life. Kateri held fast to her beliefs.

She ran away to a mission village on the St. Lawrence River where she proved herself to be an outstanding student of religion. As evidence of her purity and humility, Kateri practiced daily self-mutilation and self-induced physical tortures. Because of the strength of her faith, she was accepted into the convent, and became the first Native American Catholic Nun.

As a result of her weakened physical condition from the years of self-torture and exposure, Kateri died at the age of 24. Church officials present at her death witnessed a miraculous transformation when her scarred face and tortured body became unspeakably beautiful right before their eyes. Almost immediately, miracles, cures, healings, visions, and apparitions began taking place; all attributed to Kateri.

Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American Ministries in Catholic churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared Venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943, and she was Beatified in 1980. Work is currently underway to have her Canonized by the Church. Hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St. Francis Xavier in Caughnawaga, and at her birthplace in Auriesville, NY. Pilgrimages to these sites continue today.

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