Who was Saint Kateri Tekakwitha?

Courage and Perseverance as a Native American Catholic

posted July 14, 2014

Today, July 14, is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. St. Kateri was the first Native American in the United States to be canonized in the Catholic Church.

Kateri Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk woman born in upstate New York in 1657. She lived much of her short life with the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake near present-day Montreal, Canada after being orphaned and scarred during a severe smallpox outbreak that killed most of her village.

Living a life of spiritual contemplation and a balanced Mohawk-Catholic identity was met with controversy by her peers, but later proved to be her salvation. Angie Stover, a member of the local St. Kateri Circle chapter and office manager at Sacred Heart Church in Pine Ridge views St. Kateri as a source of strength for her and other Native-Catholic people.

“She was a person who persevered in her Christian faith during a challenge time, yet maintained her identity as a Native American. Here on the reservation, many of us wish to follow a similar path and knowing St. Kateri’s story helps us to be strong,” Angie explained. “She was a Native American, without question, and yet she became enamoured with Jesus and pursued a Christian life. Her story gives me the courage to step out as a Native woman and still be Catholic.”

When she died from tuberculosis at the age of 24, those with her witnessed St. Kateri’s scarred face miraculously healed. She also appeared in a heavenly form three times before individuals at the Jesuit mission.

In 1980, St. Kateri was beatified by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter's Basilica on October 21, 2012—a ceremony several Red Cloud parishioners and lay ministers attended.

St. Kateri is seen by many as an exemplar of religious devotion, having overcome many health and cultural challenges to lead a life in service of God. Today, many churches and schools carry her name and she serves as the patron saint of the environment and ecology. A Tekakwitha Conference is also held each year to encourage people to reflect on her life as a Native person of God. This year the conference will be held from July 23-27 in Fargo, North Dakota.

To learn more about Red Cloud’s pastoral ministry program and the celebration of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, contact Veronica Valandra, pastoral coordinator at Red Cloud Indian School.

 Learn more about the Tekakwitha Conference and St. Kateri


 Photos and Content ©Red Cloud Indian School, 2014