At the National National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, N.Y., a powwow was held recently – a sign of the heritage of the shrine’s namesake, who needs only a certified miracle before she can be canonized as a Roman catholic saint.
If that happens, Kateri Tekakwitha, who was Mohawk-Algonquin and lived in the 1600s, would become the first Native American saint.
To some, it’s only a matter of semantics.
“I grew up thinking of her as a saint, because that’s how my people revered her,” Theresa Steele, a Canadian-born member of the Algonquin nation and member of the shrine’s board of directors, tells Nancy Wiechec of Catholic San Francisco, here. “We’ve always seen her that way.”
As Wiechec writes:
Orphaned at age 4 during a smallpox epidemic, Kateri was left pockmarked and nearly blind by the disease. Later, when she embraced Christianity and prayer and refused to marry, she was scorned by other Mohawks. She was taken from her village to a Mohawk Catholic mission in Canada for her own safety. There she taught prayers to children and tended to the sick and elderly.
Blessed Kateri is patron of American Indians, ecology and the environment and is held up as a model for Catholic youth. The U.S. church marks her feast on July 14.
Msgr. Paul A. Lenz, vice postulator for Blessed Kateri’s cause, told CNS that documentation supporting a healing through her intercession was sent to the Vatican last year.
Kateri Tekakwitha died – her skin reportedly clearing at the moment of her death – April 17, 1680, at a mission near Montreal, in her early 20s. She was declared venerable in 1942 and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.