Feast Day : July 14 (formerly April 17)
Patronage: environment and ecology
Also known as: Catherine Tegakwitha, Catherine Takwita, Kateri Tekawitha, Lily of the Mohawks, Genevieve of New France
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the Mohawk village of Gandahouhague (Ossernenon, now Auriesville, New York), in 1656, the daughter of a captive Christian Algonquin woman and a non-Christian Mohawk warrior. Her parents and brother died of smallpox when she was four; the disease permanently disfigured her face and impaired her eyesight. She was converted to Catholicism and baptized by a Jesuit missionary, Father Jacques de Lamberville, on Easter of 1676, when she was 20. In 1679, she took a vow of chastity. Shunned by her tribe because of her beliefs, she walked over 200 miles to the mission village of St. Francis Xavier de Sault, or Caughnawaga, near Montreal, Quebec. There she dedicated herself to prayer and penitence and care for the sick and aged; she was allowed to open a convent in 1679. Kateri died at Caughnawaga, on April 7, 1680, at the age of 24. Her grave became a pilgrimage site for Christian Indians and French colonists, and the place of many miracles. In 1884, the Rev. Clarence Walworth raised a monument there. Devotion to Kateri has been responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic churches throughout the United States and Canada. The Tekakwitha Conference, an international association of Native American Catholics and those in ministry with them, was named for her. Kateri was the first Native American proposed for canonization. Her cause was started in 1884–85 under Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903), and she was declared venerable by Pope Pius XII (r. 1939–58) on January 3, 1943.