Catalina Tekakwitha, the "lily of the Mohawks".

Catherine Tekakwitha is a saint venerated by the Catholic Church. Born in North America, she converted at the age of twenty and consecrated herself to God. She lived a great love for the Eucharist until she died at the age of 24.

Paloma López Campos-July 14, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes
Catalina Tekakwitha

Statue of St. Catherine Tekakwitha in New York (CNS photo / Gregory A. Shemitz)

Catherine Tekakwitha was born in 1656 at Ossernenon, which was part of the Iroquois Confederation. This union of nations had its capital in present-day New York State. Catherine was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin Indian (from eastern Canada). Her mother was a Christian, but her father was a pagan, so the young Indian did not really come to faith until she was eighteen.

At the age of four, Catalina lost her parents and a brother to smallpox. She also caught the disease, but managed to survive. However, her face was scarred and she had vision problems for the rest of her life.

Little is known of his childhood and adolescence. There are records of his baptism when he was twenty years old, two years after learning about the faith. He received the sacrament from French Jesuit missionaries.

After receiving the Catholic faith, he began to suffer rejection and abuse from his family. The situation became so extreme that he had to flee his village and walk 200 miles to a Christian village in Montreal (Canada) in 1677. There he cultivated a great love for the Eucharist and a penitent life, in favor of her people of origin who had rejected her.

Two years later, in 1679, at the age of 23, she took a vow of chastity. She died only twelve months later in Caughnawag, near Quebec. It is said that her last words were "Jesus, I love you".

She began to be venerated after her death and received the nickname "lily of the Mohawks". Pope Pius XII declared her venerable in 1943. Her beatification by John Paul II took place in 1980. Finally, it was Benedict XVI who canonized Catherine Tekakwitha on October 21, 2012.

A stained glass window depicts St. Catherine Tekakwitha in a church in Long Island, New York (OSV News photo / Gregory A. Shemitz).
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