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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks


Kateri, orphaned at four, bearer of many struggles, was led to become a bride of Christ and the patron saint of people in exile and Native Americans.

Saint Kateri was born in 1656 to a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin woman in upstate New York.  The Mohawk tribe she belonged to was diverse, assimilating other tribes whose numbers had dwindled due to war and disease. However, this diversity also brought disease to the tribe.

When Kateri was four years old, she, along with her mother, father, and brother, contracted smallpox. The disease took her whole family and left Kateri scarred and half-blind.  She was taken in by an aunt who was the wife of a chief of the Turtle clan of the Mohawks. Because of her scars, Kateri was very shy and wore a hooded headdress to cover her scars.

Jesuit Instruction

When Kateri was eleven, the tribe was visited by three Jesuit priests who attempted to convert it. Kateri spent time with the priests and was very impressed by all they had to teach. When they left, Kateri, who was already a hardworking and diligent girl, became even more so, trying to live the way she thought God would want her to.

Eventually, Kateri’s aunt and uncle arranged for her to marry a young man of the tribe, but she refused. She was committed to a life of purity.  Her family was incensed by her attitude and gave her more work, and other members of the tribe harassed her.  Eventually, her aunt gave up and accepted that Kateri would not marry.

When she was nineteen, Father Jacques de Lamberville visited the tribe, and Kateri expressed her desire to become a Catholic. After receiving catechism lessons Kateri was received into the Catholic Church on April 18, 1676. She took the name Catherine, Kateri in the Mohawk language, and vowed to remain married only to Christ Jesus.  To escape the persecution of her tribe, she moved to a Christian mission in what is now Montreal. Kateri was sickly, and with her mortifications, such as sleeping on thorns and fasting, the decline of her health quickened. She died at the age of twenty-four on April 17, 1680.

St. Kateri’s Feast Day is July 14

Pope Benedict XVI canonized Saint Kateri on October 21, 2012. She is the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile, and Native Americans. The National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is in Fonda, New York.

St. Kateri, pray for us!

Download the free Saint of the Month poster designed and illustrated by Emily Prause using the button below. You can pin it to your classroom wall or place it on your refrigerator to help your children learn more about Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.

You can learn more about Emily, the artist who painted Saint Kateri’s poster, here.

Download Printable Saint Page

Click here for more Saint of the Month posters!

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