Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
The oldest known portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha, painted after her death by Father Chauchetière
Virgin; Lily of the Mohawks
Born 1656, Ossernenon, Iroquois Confederacy (Modern Auriesville, New York)
Died April 17, 1680, Kahnawake (near Montreal), Quebec, Canada
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church (United States and Canada)
Beatified June 22, 1980, Rome by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine St Francis Xavier Church, Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada
Feast July 14 (United States)
Attributes lily; turtle
Patronage ecologists
loss of parents
people in exile
people ridiculed for their piety

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha or Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha (pronounced [ɡɔdeɺi deɡɔɡʷidɔ] in Mohawk; 1656 – April 17, 1680) was a Mohawk-Algonquian woman from New York and an early convert to Christianity, who has been beatified in the Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

Kateri Tekakwitha the daughter of a Mohawk chief, Kenneronkwa, and a Catholic Algonquin woman, Kahenta, was born in the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon near present-day Auriesville, New York. Kahenta was baptized and educated by the French in Trois-Rivières like many of the Abenaki. She was captured there at the start of a war with the Iroquois and taken to Kenneronkwa's homeland.[1] When Kateri was four, smallpox swept through Ossernenon, and Tekakwitha was left with unsightly scars on her face and poor eyesight. This outbreak took the lives of her brother and both her parents, Kahenta (Flower of the Prairie) and Kenneronkwa (Beloved). She was then adopted by her uncle, who was a chief of the Turtle Clan.[2] As the adopted daughter of the chief, many young men sought her hand in marriage. However, during this time she began taking interest in Christianity. Her mother was Christian and had given Kateri a rosary, but her uncle took it away and encouraged her not to follow that religion.

In 1666, Alexandre de Prouville burned down Ossernenon. Kateri's clan then settled on the north side of the Mohawk River, near what is now Fonda, New York. While living here, at the age of 20, Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676[2] by Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit. At her baptism, she took the name "Kateri," a Mohawk pronunciation of the French name "Catherine". Tekakwitha literally means "she moves things."

Unable to understand her zeal, members of the tribe often chastised her, which she took as a testament to her faith. Kateri exercised physical mortification as a route to sanctity. She would occasionally put thorns upon her mat and lie on them, all the while praying for the conversion and forgiveness of her kinsmen. She discontinued this practice when her close friend, Marie Therese, and her confessor expressed their disapproval. Because she was persecuted by her Native American kin, which included threats to her life, she fled to an established community of Native American Christians in Kahnawake, Quebec, where she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and care for the sick and aged. In 1679, she took a vow of chastity, as in the Catholic expression of Consecrated virginity. A year later, on April 17, 1680, Kateri died at the age of 24. Her last words are said to be, "Jesus, I love You!"[2]


Her grave stone reads:
"Kateri Tekakwitha

Ownkeonweke Katsitsiio Teonsitsianekaron

The fairest flower that ever bloomed among red men."

She is called "The Lily of the Mohawks," the "Mohawk Maiden," the "Pure and Tender Lily," and the "Flower among True Men," the "Lily of Purity" and "The New Star of the New World." According to Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik's "Kateri of the Mohawks," her tribal neighbors called her "the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the redmen."[3]

In his scholarly but secular Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Harvard University Press, 2001), Daniel K. Richter writes: “On a personal scale, whatever private pains those who have prayed to Kateri down through the years have endured, her mythic story has provided meaning, hope, and even healing. But on a broader, cultural level. . . [her story helps] to resolve the moral contradictions raised by the European colonization of North America and the dispossession of its Native inhabitants” (p. 81).



According to eyewitness accounts, Kateri's scars vanished at the time of her death revealing a woman of immense beauty. It has been claimed that at her funeral many of the ill who attended were healed on that day. It is also held that she appeared to two different individuals in the weeks following her death.[4]

The process for her canonization began in 1884. She was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943. She was later beatified on June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II, and as such she is properly referred to as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha within the Roman Catholic Church. She is the first Native American to be so honored in the Roman Catholic Church, and as such she holds a special place of devotion among the Native/Aboriginal Catholics of North America. Devotion to Blessed Kateri is clearly manifest in at least three national shrines in the United States alone, including the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York, the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.. Likewise, she has been commemorated by a statue on the outside of the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec. In 2007, Blessed Kateri was featured along with Blessed Junipero Serra, Saint Joseph, and Saint Francis of Assisi in the Grand Retablo, a newly installed work by Spanish artisans standing over forty feet high behind the main altar of the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California.[5][6]

A larger-than-life-size bronze statue of Blessed Kateri depicting the Saint kneeling in prayer, installed in 2008 and created by artist Cynthia Hitschler[7] is featured along the devotional walkway leading to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, La Crosse, Wisconsin.[8]

Kateri Tekakwitha au Québec

Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City.

The final step in the canonization process is awaiting a verified miracle. Blessed Kateri's feast day in the United States is celebrated on July 14. Kateri was for some time after her death considered an honorary (though unofficial) patroness of Montreal, Canada, and Native Americans. Fifty years after her death a Convent for Native American nuns was opened in Mexico, whose residents pray daily for her canonization.


The following churches have been named in her honor:

Other namesakes include:

  • The Blessed Kateri Catholic School, an elementary-junior secondary school in London, Ontario.
  • The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha School, an elementary school in Hamilton, Ontario.
  • Camp Tekakwitha[9] is a Francophone summer camp in Maine, named in her honor.
  • The Kateri School, an elementary school in Kahnawake (the Mohawk territory where Kateri lived for some time), is also named after her.
  • The Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic School, an elementary school in Markham, Ontario.

See also


  1. Kahenta
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lodi, Enzo (1992). Saints of the Roman Calendar (Eng. Trans.). New York: Alba House. pp. 419 pp.. doi:BX4655.2.L63513. ISBN 0-8189-0652-9. 
  3. Bunson, Margaret and Stephen, "Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks," Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions brochure, pg.1
  4. Father Pierre Cholenec's biography of the Kateri Tekakwitha and her details of her apparitions [1]
  5. IGNATIN, HEATHER (2007-04-19). "Retablo draws crowds at Mission Basilica". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  6. Mission San Juan Capistrano: Grand Retablo en Route to San Juan Capistrano, Installation expected March 19, Feb. 9, 2007
  7. Cynthia Hitschler
  8. "Mohawk Woman Enshrined at Shrine" (Orso, Joe), La Crosse TribuneJuly 31, 2008:[2]
  9. Camp Tekakwitha

External links

Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  
ca:Kateri Tekakwithano:Kateri Tekákwithapt:Kateri Tekakwitha

ru:Катери Текаквита sv:Kateri Tekakwitha

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