St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Feast Day: April 17*
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in present-day New York State. Her mother, an Algonquin, was a devout Christian. When she was 4 years old, Kateri lost her parents and her only brother in a smallpox epidemic. She too contracted the disease, and although she survived, her face was left severely pockmarked.
Finding a home in the family of her uncle, a Mohawk chief, she received instruction in the faith and was baptized in 1676 by Jesuit missionary Fr. Jacques de Lamberville. After becoming a Christian, Kateri soon became a model of youthful piety.
She became the target of harassment at home because of her faith and determination to live as a virgin. On the advice of the missionaries, she moved to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier near present-day Montreal to live among other Christian Native Americans. She died April 17, 1680, widely known and esteemed by all as a saint. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”
This young Iroquois woman, whose life was sustained by her Christian faith and by an ardent love of Jesus present in the Eucharist, found in Jesus Christ the strength to withstand the hostile pressure of the non-Christian culture in which she lived. She kept with heroic fidelity the vow of virginity which she pronounced on March 25, 1679. St. John Paul II beatified her in 1980, and Pope Benedict XVI canonized her in 2012.
*While the rest of the United States celebrates her feast day July 14, the annual diocesan Kateri celebration is held closer to her Canadian feast day, April 17, the anniversary of her death.
Impact on the Diocese of Phoenix
She has long been considered patroness of Native Americans and the Native American missions, including those in Arizona. Kateri Circles are located throughout the country, including several in the diocese. The different tribes come together annually to celebrate her feast day, rotating the location on a different reservation mission.