Kateri Tekakwitha
Portrait of Catherine Tekawitha, c. 1690, by Father Chauchetière
Virgin[1]
Born1656
Ossernenon, New York
Baptized18 April 1676
Died17 April 1680 (aged 24)
Kahnawake (near Montreal), Quebec, Canada
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified22 June 1980, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized21 October 2012, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrineSaint Francis Xavier Church, Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada
Feast17 April[2]
14 July (United States)
AttributesLily; Turtle; Rosary
Patronageecologists, ecology, environment, environmentalists, loss of parents, people in exile, people ridiculed for their piety, Native Americans
ControversyPressure to marry against will, shunned for her Catholic beliefs

Kateri Tekakwitha (pronounced [ˈɡaderi deɡaˈɡwita] in Mohawk), given the name Tekakwitha, baptized as Catherine, and informally known as Lily of the Mohawks (1656 – April 17, 1680), is a Catholic saint and virgin who was an AlgonquinMohawk. Born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, in present-day New York State, she contracted smallpox in an epidemic; her family died and her face was scarred. She converted to Catholicism at age nineteen. She took a vow of perpetual virginity, left her village, and moved for the remaining five years of her life to the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, just south of Montreal. She was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter's Basilica on 21 October 2012.

Early life and education

Sculpture of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Tekakwitha is the name the girl was given by her Mohawk people. It translates to "She who bumps into things."[3] She was born around 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon in Northeastern New York state.

She was the daughter of Kenneronkwa, a Mohawk chief, and Kahenta, an Algonquin woman, who had been captured in a raid and then adopted and assimilated into the tribe. Kahenta had been baptized Catholic and educated by French missionaries in Trois-Rivières, east of Montreal. Mohawk warriors captured her and took her to their homeland.[4] Kahenta eventually married Kenneronkwa.[5] Tekakwitha was the first of their two children. A brother followed.

Tekakwitha's original village was highly diverse. The Mohawk were absorbing many captured natives of other tribes, particularly their competitors, the Huron, to replace people who died from warfare or diseases.

When Tekakwitha was around four years old, her baby brother and both her parents died of smallpox. She survived but was left with facial scars and impaired eyesight.[6] She was adopted by her father's sister and her husband, a chief of the Turtle Clan.

The Jesuits' account of Tekakwitha said that she was a modest girl who avoided social gatherings and covered her head because of the scars. She became skilled at traditional women's arts like making clothing, weaving mats, and preparing food. As was the custom, she was pressured to think about marriage around age thirteen, but she refused.[5]

Upheaval and invasions

Tekakwitha grew up in a period of upheaval, as the Mohawk interacted with French and Dutch colonists, who were competing in the lucrative fur trade. Trying to make inroads in Iroquois territory, the French attacked the Mohawk in present-day central New York in 1666. After driving the people from their homes, the French burned the three Mohawk villages. Tekakwitha, around ten years old, fled with her new family.[7]

After the defeat by the French forces, the Mohawk accepted a peace treaty that required them to tolerate Jesuit missionaries in their villages. The Jesuits established a mission near Auriesville, New York. They spoke of Christianity in terms with which the Mohawk could identify.

The Mohawk crossed their river to rebuild Caughnawaga on the north bank, west of the present-day town of Fonda, New York. In 1667, when Tekakwitha was 11 years old, she met the Jesuit missionaries Jacques Frémin, Jacques Bruyas, and Jean Pierron, who had come to the village.[8] Her uncle opposed any contact with them because he did not want her to convert to Christianity. One of his older daughters had already become Catholic.

In the summer of 1669, several hundred Mohican warriors, advancing from the east, launched an attack on Caughnawaga. Tekakwitha, at that point around 13 years old, joined other girls to help priest Jean Pierron tend to the wounded, bury the dead, and carry food and water.[9]

Feast of the Dead

Later in 1669, the Iroquois Feast of the Dead was convened at Caughnawaga. The remains of Tekakwitha's parents, along with others, were to be part of the ceremony.[10] Father Pierron criticized the Feast of the Dead, but the assembled Iroquois ordered him to be silent. Afterwards, however, they relented. Exchanging gifts with priest, they promised to give up the Feast.[11] Garakontié later converted to Christianity.

Family pressures

By the time Tekakwitha turned 17, around 1673, her adoptive mother and aunt tried to arrange her marriage to a young Mohawk man.[12] Tekakwitha fled the cabin and hid in a nearby field and continued to resist marriage.[13] Eventually, her aunts gave up their efforts to get her to marry.

In the spring of 1674, at age eighteen, Tekakwitha met the Jesuit priest Jacques de Lamberville, who was visiting the village. In the presence of others, Tekakwitha told him her story and her desire to become a Christian. She started studying the catechism with him.[5]

Conversion and Kahnawake

In his journal, Lamberville wrote about Tekakwitha in the years after her death. This text described her before she was baptized as a mild-mannered girl. Lamberville also stated that Kateri did everything she could to stay holy in a secular society, which often caused minor conflicts with her longhouse residents. The journal, however, does not mention violence toward Kateri, while other sources do.[14]

Lamberville baptized Tekakwitha at the age of 19, on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676.[15] Tekakwitha was renamed "Catherine" after St. Catherine of Siena (Kateri was the Mohawk form of the name).[16][17]

She remained in Caughnawauga for another six months. Some Mohawks opposed her conversion and accused her of sorcery.[8] Lamberville suggested that she go to the Jesuit mission of Kahnawake, located south of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, where other native converts had gathered. Catherine joined them in 1677.[18]

Tekakwitha was said to have put thorns on her sleeping mat and lain on them while praying for her relatives' conversion and forgiveness. Piercing the body to draw blood was a traditional practice of the Mohawk and other Iroquois nations. She lived at Kahnawake the remaining two years of her life.

Father Cholonec wrote that Tekakwitha said:

I have deliberated enough. For a long time, my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband, and He alone will take me for wife.[8]

The Church considers that in 1679, with her decision on the Feast of the Annunciation, Tekakwitha's conversion was truly completed, and with regard to biographies of the early Jesuits, she is regarded as the "first Iroquois virgin".[8] Although Tekakwitha is rather often regarded as a consecrated virgin,[19] she could, owing to circumstances, never receive the Consecration of Virgins by a bishop.[20] Nevertheless, the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins took Kateri Tekakwitha as its patroness.[21]

Mission du Sault St. Louis: Kahnawake

The Jesuits had founded Kahnawake for the religious conversion of the natives. When it began, the natives built their traditional longhouses for residences. They also built a longhouse to be used as a chapel by the Jesuits. As a missionary settlement, Kahnawake was at risk of being attacked by the Iroquois Confederacy members who had not converted to Catholicism.[5] (While it attracted other Iroquois, it was predominantly Mohawk, the prominent tribe in eastern New York.)

After Catherine's arrival, she shared the longhouse of her older sister and her husband. She would have known other people in the longhouse who had migrated from their former village of Gandaouagué (Caughnawaga). Her mother's close friend, Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, was clan matron of the longhouse. Anastasia and other Mohawk women introduced Tekakwitha to the regular practices of Christianity.[5] This was normal for the women in the village, with many of the missionaries being preoccupied with other religious tasks. Pierre Cholenec reported that "all the Iroquois who come here and then become Christians owe their conversion mainly to the zeal of their relatives".[22] Kahnawake was a village set-up like normal Iroquois villages, moving from location to location after running out of resources. The village was originally not wholly French but with northward migration towards Canada started by the Five Nations, the village started to gain more native members. The Five Nations all happened to start migrating north[23] around the same time, without any communication between them. In Kahnawake, there was representation from multiple tribes[24] and when the French came, there were people from different ethnicities. The village was recognized by New France as well, it was given autonomy to deal with the problems that would arise. They were also able to form a friendship with New York through this autonomy.

There was fur trade in Kahnawake. The division between the French Church and the natives was clear-cut in the village; there were few interactions between the two.

Kahnawake was drawn into a war among the different tribes that lasted around two and a half years.

Chauchetière and Cholenec

Claude Chauchetière and Pierre Cholenec were Jesuit priests who played important roles in Tekakwitha's life. Both were based in New France and Kahnawake. Chauchetière was the first to write a biography of Tekakwitha (1695), and Cholenec followed (1696).[5] Cholenec, who had arrived first, introduced traditional items of Catholic mortification to the converts at Kahnawake. He wanted them to adopt these rather than use Mohawk ritual practices.[5] Both Chauchetière and Tekakwitha arrived in Kahnawake the same year, in 1677.

Chauchetière came to believe that Tekakwitha was a saint. In his biography of Kateri, he stressed her "charity, industry, purity, and fortitude."[25] In contrast, Cholenec stressed her virginity, perhaps to counter colonial stereotypes characterizing Indian women as promiscuous.[25]

Death and appearances

Around Holy Week of 1680, friends noted that Tekakwitha's health was failing. When people knew she had but a few hours left, villagers gathered together, accompanied by the priests Chauchetière and Cholenec, the latter providing the last rites.[5] Catherine Tekakwitha died at around 15:00 (3 p.m.) on Holy Wednesday, April 17, 1680, at the age of 23 or 24, in the arms of her friend Marie-Therèse. Chauchetière reports her final words were, "Jesus, Mary, I love you."[26]

After her death, the people noticed a physical change. Cholenec later wrote, "This face, so marked and swarthy, suddenly changed about a quarter of an hour after her death and became in a moment so beautiful and so white that I observed it immediately."[27] Her smallpox scars were said to disappear.

Tekakwitha purportedly appeared to three individuals in the weeks after her death; her mentor Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, her friend Marie-Therèse Tegaiaguenta, and Chauchetière. Anastasia said that, while crying over the death of her spiritual daughter, she looked up to see Catherine "kneeling at the foot" of her mattress, "holding a wooden cross that shone like the sun." Marie-Thérèse reported that she was awakened at night by a knocking on her wall, and a voice asked if she were awake, adding, "I've come to say good-bye; I'm on my way to heaven." Marie-Thérèse went outside but saw no one; she heard a voice murmur, "Adieu, Adieu, go tell the father that I'm going to heaven." Chauchetière meanwhile said he saw Catherine at her grave; he said she appeared in "baroque splendor; for two hours he gazed upon her" and "her face lifted toward heaven as if in ecstasy."[5]

Chauchetière had a chapel built near Kateri's gravesite. By 1684, pilgrimages had begun to honor her there. The Jesuits turned her bones to dust and set the ashes within the "newly rebuilt mission chapel." This symbolized her presence on earth, and her remains were sometimes used as relics for healing.[citation needed]

Veneration

Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha by Joseph-Émile Brunet at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City

The first account of Kateri Tekakwitha was not published until 1715. Because of Tekakwitha's unique path to chastity, she is often referred to as a lily, a traditional symbol of purity. Religious images of Tekakwitha are often decorated with a lily and cross, with feathers or turtle as cultural accessories alluding to her Native American birth. Colloquial epithets for Tekakwitha are The Lily of the Mohawks (most notable), the Mohawk Maiden, the Pure and Tender Lily, the Flower among True Men, the Lily of Purity and The New Star of the New World. Her tribal neighbors – and her gravestone – referred to her as "the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the redmen."[28] Her virtues are considered an ecumenical bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.

Fifty years after her death, a convent for Native American nuns opened in Mexico.[citation needed] Indian[clarification needed] Catholic missions and bishops in the 1880s initiated a petition for officially allowing veneration of Kateri. They asked for the veneration of Tekakwitha in tandem with the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and René Goupil, two Catholic missionaries who had been slain by the Mohawk in Osernnenon a few decades before Kateri's birth. They concluded their petition by stating that these venerations would help encourage Catholicism among other Native Americans.[29]

The process for Kateri Tekakwitha's canonization was initiated by United States Catholics at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1885, followed by Canadian Catholics. Some 906 Native Americans signed 27 letters in the US and Canada urging her canonization.[30] Her spiritual writings were approved by theologians on July 8, 1936, and her cause was formally opened on 19 May 1939, granting her the title of Servant of God.[31]

On January 3, 1943, Pope Pius XII declared her venerable.[31] She was beatified as on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II.[32]

On December 19, 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints certified a second miracle through her intercession, signed by Pope Benedict XVI. On February 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI decreed that Tekakwitha be canonized. Speaking in Latin, he used the form "Catharina Tekakwitha"; the official booklet of the ceremony referred to her in English and Italian as "Kateri Tekakwitha."[33] She was canonized on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI.[26] In the official canonization rite booklet, "Catherine" is used in the English and French biographies and "Kateri" in the translation of the rite itself.[34] She is the first Native American woman of North America to be canonized by the Catholic Church.[35][36]

In 2022, the Episcopal Church of the United States gave final approval to a feast dedicated to Kateri on 17 April on the liturgical calendar.[37]

Kateri Tekakwitha is featured in four national shrines in the United States: the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, New York; the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York; the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.; and The National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods, an open-air sanctuary in Indian River, Michigan. The latter shrine's design was inspired by Kateri's habit of placing small wooden crosses throughout the woods.[38] The National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is also home to Caughnawaga, an excavated Haudenosaunee village.[39]

Statues

There are numerous statues of Kateri, among the sites are:

Miracles

A statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Saint John Neumann Catholic Church, Sunbury, Ohio

Joseph Kellogg was a Protestant child captured by Natives in the eighteenth century and eventually returned to his home. Twelve months later, he caught smallpox. The Jesuits helped treat him, but he was not recovering. They had relics from Tekakwitha's grave but did not want to use them on a non-Catholic. One Jesuit told Kellogg that if he would become a Catholic, help would come to him. Joseph did so. The Jesuit gave him a piece of decayed wood from Kateri's coffin, which is said to have made him heal. The historian Allan Greer takes this account to mean that Tekakwitha was known in 18th-century New France, and she was already perceived to have healing abilities.[5]

Other miracles were attributed to Kateri: Father Rémy recovered his hearing, and a nun in Montreal was cured by using items formerly belonging to Kateri. Such incidents were evidence that Kateri was possibly a saint. Following the death of a person, sainthood is symbolized by events that show the rejection of death. It is also represented by a duality of pain and neutralization of the other's pain (all shown by her reputed miracles in New France).[5] Chauchetière told settlers in La Prairie to pray to Kateri for intercession with illnesses. Due to the Jesuits' superior system of publicizing material, his words and Kateri's fame were said to reach Jesuits in China and their converts.[5]

As people believed in her healing powers, some collected earth from her gravesite and wore it in bags as a relic. One woman said she was saved from pneumonia ("grande maladie du rhume"); she gave the pendant to her husband, who was healed from his disease.[5]

On December 19, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI approved the second miracle needed for Kateri's canonization.[51] The authorized miracle dates from 2006, when a young boy in Washington state survived a severe flesh-eating bacterium. Doctors had been unable to stop the disease's progress by surgery and advised his parents he was likely to die. The boy received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick from a Catholic priest. As the boy is half Lummi Indian, the parents said they prayed to Tekakwitha for divine intercession, as did their family and friends, and an extended network contacted through their son's classmates.[52] Sister Kateri Mitchell visited the boy's bedside and placed a relic of Tekakwitha, a bone fragment, against his body and prayed together with his parents.[53] The next day, the infection stopped its progression.[54]

Indigenous perspectives

Mohawk scholar Orenda Boucher noted that, in her opinion, there were "mixed feelings" surrounding the canonization of Tekakwitha.[55] There are some traditionalist Mohawk who feel her story was tied into the tragedies of colonization that deeply affected the people of Kahnawake.[56] Despite this dark past, Kateri herself is generally respected among Catholic and traditionalist Mohawk alike. Much of the debate surrounding Kateri's canonization is built upon the idea that it was done to bolster the image of the Church among Native Americans.[55] Some feel her sainthood reflects her unique position as someone who can bridge the two cultures and create unity. [55]

Cultural references

More than 300 books have been published in more than 20 languages on the life of Kateri Tekakwitha.[6] The historian K. I. Koppedrayer has suggested that the Catholic Church fathers' hagiography of Tekakwitha reflected "trials and rewards of the European presence in the New World."[8]

Stage performances

American composer Nellie von Gerichten Smith (1871–1952) created an opera entitled Lily of the Mohawks: Kateri Tekakwitha (text by Edward C. La More).[57] It was not the first stage performance of her life; Joseph Clancy's play, The Princess of the Mohawks, was performed often by schoolchildren starting in the 1930s.[58]

Literature

Animation

Music

Legacy

Blessed Kateri devotional medal

After Tekakwitha's beatification in 1980, Paula E. Holmes, in the late 1990s, interviewed several elderly Native American women about their childhoods and hearing stories from their ancestors about Tekakwitha. She found that Kateri is "as part of their Indian familiar and familial heritage."[61]

Clarence A. Walworth was one of the strongest proponents of Tekakwitha's veneration. He personally financed a granite monument in Kahnawake out of a gesture for international co-operation for her veneration.[62]

In traditional fashion, numerous churches, schools and other Catholic institutions have been named for her, particularly since her canonization, including several Catholic elementary schools. Among these are St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener,[63] Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Markham,[64] St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton,[65] Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic School in Orléans (Ottawa),[66] and St. Kateri Tekakwitha School in Calgary, Alberta.[67] In the United States, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Churches are Dearborn, MI,[68] Buffalo, TX,[69] and Sparta, NJ.[70] Saint Kateri is the patron saint of John Cabot Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga.

The St. Kateri Tekakwitha School in Niskayuna, New York was named after her. St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, located in adjacent Schenectady, was founded in 2012. A parish in Irondequoit, New York, was named after her in 2010. Kateri Residence, a nursing home in Manhattan, is named for her. The chapel of Welsh Family Hall at the University of Notre Dame, built in 1997, is dedicated to her.

On April 4, 2021, on Easter Sunday, the only Catholic Church at St. Theresa Point in Northern Manitoba, Canada, burned down. The only things that were left after the rubble was an image of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, almost completely intact as well as a Mary statue.[71]

In May 2021, a church that was built in St. Kateri's honour burned for the second time on the Bay Mills Indian Community in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.[72]

Since 1939, the Tekakwitha Conference meets annually to support Catholic missions among Native Americans. People gather in Kateri Circles to pray together, seeking to become better Catholics. In 1991, the conference reported 130 registered Kateri Circles.[29]

Tekakwitha Island (French: Île Tekakwitha) in the St. Lawrence River, part of the Kahnawake reserve, is named after her.

References

  1. ^ Pierre Cholence SJ, "Catharinae Tekakwitha, Virginis" (1696), Acta Apostolica Sedis, January 30, 1961
  2. ^ "Liturgical Calendar. Proper to The Dioceses of Canada" (PDF). cccb.ca. January 27, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
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  4. ^ Juliette Lavergne (1934). La Vie gracieuse de Catherine Tekakwitha. Montreal: Editions A.C.F. pp. 13–43.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Greer, Allan (2005). Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits. Oxford University Press. pp. 3–205.
  6. ^ a b "A Lily Among Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha". www.wampumchronicles.com. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  7. ^ Daniel Sargent, Catherine Tekakwitha, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1936, p. 164.
  8. ^ a b c d e Koppedrayer, K. I. (1993). "The Making of the First Iroquois Virgin: Early Jesuit Biographies of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha". Ethnohistory. Duke University Press. 40 (2): 277–306. doi:10.2307/482204. JSTOR 482204.
  9. ^ Francis X. Weiser, Kateri Tekakwitha, Kateri Center, Caughnawaga, Canada, 1972, pp. 50–52.
  10. ^ Daniel Sargent, Catherine Tekakwitha, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1936, p. 167. Also, J.N.B. Hewitt, "The Iroquoian Concept of the Soul," Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 8, Boston, 1895, p. 109.
  11. ^ Daniel Sargent, Catherine Tekakwitha, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1936, pp. 167–168.
  12. ^ Rev. Edward Sherman (2007). Tekakwitha Holy Native, Mohawk Virgin 1656–1680. Grand Forks, ND: Fine Print Inc. p. 106.
  13. ^ Edward Lecompte, Glory of the Mohawks: The Life of the Venerable Catherine Tekakwitha, translated by Florence Ralston Werum, FRSA, Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee, 1944, p. 28; Francis X. Weiser, Kateri Tekakwitha, Kateri Center, Caughnawaga, Canada, 1972, pp. 65–68.
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  20. ^ I, R. "St. Kateri Tekakwitha Was NOT a Consecrated Virgin »".
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Further reading