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A friend pointed out to me the other day that I had written much about Mother Marianne of Moloki but not so much about Kateri Tekakwitha. My friend was correct.
I started writing about Mother Marianne back in 1982. Iíve written many articles about her over the years, including about her growing up in Utica and about how she became a Franciscan Sister in 1863 and about how she helped start St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Josephís Hospital in Syracuse and about how she worked among the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Moloki for the better part of her life.
Mother Marianne will be sainted this October 21st during a ceremony in the Vatican.
Being sainted, of course, is a big deal, especially when the saint comes from the United States. There are only 10 saints from this country. Mother Marianne will be number 11.
And Kateri Tekakwitha will be number 12. She will also have the distinction of being the first Native American saint.
The reason for not writing much about Kateri Tekakwitha is that I donít know much about her, which I need to change. But I do know a little, including the following:
* Kateri was born in 1656 near the present day community of Fonda. She died in Canada on April 17, 1680 at the very young age of 24.=
* Kateriís mother was an Algonquin who had become a Christian. Kateriís father, a non-Christian, was a Mohawk chief.
* A smallpox epidemic hit Kateriís Indian village. Kateriís parents and a baby brother died. Kateri, age 4, survived the epidemic and was raised by two aunts and an uncle. But smallpox left her with a scarred face and poor eyesight.
* In 1676, Kateri became a Catholic and was baptized by Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit missionary. She was baptized as Catherine Tekakwitha. Catherine is the English word for Kateri.
* Kateri took a vow of chastity in 1679. She refused to marry, despite pressure from her family and tribe.
* Kateri was shunned and abused by relatives and her tribe because of her faith. And because she refused to work on the Sabbath, she would oftentimes not be fed.
* Kateri escaped her village and somehow made it through 200 miles of wilderness to the Christian Native American village of Sault-Sainte-Marie in Canada. Her successful wilderness journey was all the more remarkable given her poor eyesight.
* Known for her spirituality and her austere lifestyle and as a miracle worker, her grave became a pilgrimage site and place of miracles for Christian Native Americans and French colonists. Kateriís tomb is at the St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation, near Montreal, Quebec.
* She will be the patron saint of ecologists, ecology, environment, environmentalism, environmentalists, exiles, people who have lost parents, people in exile, and people ridiculed for their piety.
There is much more to learn about Kateri Tekakwitha, the soon to be saint from down the road in Fonda. Today is a start.
One final note for today: To have a saint from the United States is rare. All these years and there have been only 10. To have two new saints from the U.S. is rarer than rare. To have them canonized at the same ceremony is incredible. To have both of those two new saints come from the same area is beyond incredible.
A second final note for today: Kateri Tekakwitha is honored at a shrine on Route 5, about a quarter mile west of the Village of Fonda. I was there many years ago. I was the only visitor that day. I suspect that has changed now that she is about to be sainted.