July 14, 2015 — Today is the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be made a saint.
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in Ossernenon (now Auriesville), a Mohawk village in upstate New York. Her father was a Mohawk chief, and her Catholic mother was a member of the Algonquin nation.
When she was a child, a smallpox epidemic decimated most of her village and family. St. Kateri survived the outbreak but would suffer from poor eyesight and ill health the rest of her life. Orphaned by the disease, she would be raised by members of her non-Catholic father’s family.
A first-degree relic (a piece of bone) from St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Courtesy of Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ.
Pope Pius XII declared her venerable in 1943, the first step toward sainthood. Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, in 1980. Pope Benedict XVI approved the miracle needed for sainthood on December 19, 2011, citing her intervention in the recovery of a young boy in Washington who was gravely ill from flesh-eating bacteria. Pope Benedict announced on February 18, 2012, that Kateri would be canonized and welcomed into the communion of saints on October 21, 2012.