Sainte Kateri Tekakouitha (1656-1680)



Canonized at St. Peter’s in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha lived between 1656 and 1680. Her cause was first introduced in the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., in 1884. It was approved by the Vatican in 1943. It then became the responsibility of the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil where, in 1940, Fr. Henri Béchard, S.J. was appointed its Vice-Postulator (promoter), a position he held until his death in 1990. Kateri was beatified in Rome by Pope John-Paul II on June 22, 1980.

Carte JonesShe was born in Mohawk country at Ossernenon (near present-day Auriesville, N.Y.) of an Algonquin Catholic mother from Trois-Rivières and a Mohawk father, a traditional chief. In 1660 she lost her father, mother and younger brother in a small-pox epidemic. The disease left her practically blind and quite disfigured, her face scarred with ugly pockmarks. Adopted by an uncle, as a young woman she refused two wealthy suitors and withdrew into solitary prayer in memory of her Christian mother.


On coming to Ossernenon in 1674, the Jesuit missionary Jacques de Lamberville (1641-1711) recognized in Kateri’s accounts of her prayer-life mystical blessings remarkably similar to the visions of the great mediaeval mystic Saint Catherine of Sienna. He called her to baptism on Easter Sunday 1676. Persecutions then began against her, including physical attacks and even death threats. Fr. de Lamberville helped her to move to the Christian village of Kahnawake, near Montreal, where she was free to practice her devotions. There she was counseled by two young Jesuit priests, Pierre Cholonec (1641-1721) and Claude Chauchetière (1645-1709), the latter himself blessed by extraordinary mystical experiences.

ChauchetiereIn Kahnawake she fell seriously ill with migraine headaches, high fever and terrible stomach pains that brought on her death in April 17, 1680. Within a few minutes after her death her scarred and pock-marked features were marvellously transfigured, giving her face an extraordinary radiance and beauty. This first miracle was followed within a generation by hundreds of others, all witnessing to a widespread popular devotion to her which has gone on unabated throughout Canada and the United States until the present day.

                                           She is the only First Nations North American to have been canonized.