St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)
Feast Day: July 14
Canonization: October 21, 2012
Patron of Native Americans, ecologists, the environment, people in exile.
The “Lily of the Mohawks” was born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, located in present-day upstate New York. Her father was a Mohawk war chief and her mother was a Christian Algonquin Indian.
The young future saint’s parents gave her the name Tekakwitha, which means “she who puts things in order.” When Tekakwitha was 4 years old, smallpox swept through her village, killing many members of the tribe, including her parents and a brother. Tekakwitha also fell ill, but she was nursed back to health, though with weak eyes and a scarred face.
At age 20, Tekakwitha was baptized by a Jesuit missionary priest, who in his writings later said she displayed a deep understanding of the faith and an uncommon mysticism and contemplative spirituality. She experienced persecution from other Mohawk members but held fast to her Christian faith.
At age 24, she fell ill and died on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 17, 1680. Her last words were said to be Iesos konoronkwa (“Jesus, I love you”).