July 14 is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a lay Algonquin-Mohawk woman. She was born in modern upstate New York to the chief of the Mohawk clan and a Christian Native American. Her parents died in a smallpox epidemic, but she survived with scars on her face.
At age 19, she converted to Catholicism and left her village to live in a village with a Jesuit mission in Quebec. At age 23, she took a vow of virginity — something that was unheard of for a Native American woman whose livelihood usually depended on being married.
Moved by God’s love for all human beings and believing in the value of offered suffering, she spent the rest of her life praying and fasting for the conversion of her people.
Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680, at the age of 24. It was reported that her final words were, “Jesus, Mary, I love you.” Those present also reported that within minutes of her death, the small pox scars on her face disappeared so that she looked beautiful and radiant.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI. She is the patron saint of ecologists, environmentalism, people who have lost their parents, and people in exile.
Get to know the patron saint of Native Americans through this playlist inspired by her life, featuring artists Great Lake Swimmers and Loud Harp, and themes of adventure and hope.