A New Saint – Kateri Tekakwitha

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I had never heard about the “North American martyrs” growing up.  But I moved to New Mexico and our parish priest here liked to talk about them. These were 8 priests who came during the early 1600s to convert the Native people along the northeast coast up into Canada.

The Hurons were a fierce tribe. When sickness broke out, it was easy to blame it on the foreigners. The priests were tortured in especially brutal ways by the Mohawks. Yet, these men showed incredible courage, continuing to preach and pray in spite of the horrors, and many were converted.

Just ten years after the blood of these martyrs was spilled, a young woman was born to the Mohawks. Kateri Tekakwitha converted and faced persecution in her tribe. But she remained devoted to the Eucharist and spent her short life caring for the elderly and the sick. She died at age 24.

Last weekend Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a saint.

A New Saint: Kateri Tekakwitha

Over twenty years ago, when our community was building a new church, the question was “Who will be our patron?”  Kateri Tekakwitha was a popular suggestion. But, at that time, she was still a “blessed.” Not yet a saint. But now that’s changed. She’s a saint and we are celebrating here in New Mexico! Kateri is dear to our hearts because she’s the first Native American saint and we have many Native people in our parishes.

So we are happy to know that the Lilly of the Mohawks” has been officially named as a saint as of last weekend.

Kateri came from a fierce tribe. She was born in New York but up along the northeast border with Canada. She comes from the area where eight North American missionaries were martyred.

The  8 priests who came during the early 1600s to convert the Native peoples were accused of bringing bad luck to the people. When sickness broke out, it was easy to blame it on the foreigners. The priests were tortured in especially brutal ways by the Mohawks. Yet, these men showed incredible courage, continuing to preach and pray in spite of the horrors, and many were converted.

Just ten years later, after the blood of these martyrs was spilled, a young woman was born in that Mohawk village. Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism and faced persecution in her tribe. But she remained devoted to the Eucharist and spent her short life caring for the elderly and the sick. She died at age 24.

Last weekend Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a saint and a model of courage and humility.

St. Kateri  is one of seven new saints who were canonized on World Mission Sunday. They help us realize that saints come from many walks of life. They are young and old. They are beautiful, like Kateri, and homely. They are LIKE US. And like St. Paul they said, “I come to share the message of Jesus. Yet, more than that, I share my life with you.”

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Author: Judith Costello

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