Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) was the first Native American to be beatified, known as the "Lily of the Mohawks," she established native American ministries in parishes across the United States and Canada.
Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656. Her mother, an Algonquin Christian named Kahenta, had been taken prisoner in a raid and later married a Mohawk chief.
Kateri was 4 years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and transfigured her face. She was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle.
Kateri became converted as a teenager. She was baptized at the age of 20 and incurred the great hostility of her tribe. Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it.
Kateri went to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass.
Kateri was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified. She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of 24.
She is known as the "Lily of the Mohawks." Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada.
Kateri was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII in 1942 and beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 22, 1980.
On December 19, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI approved the second miracle needed for Blessed Kateri's canonization. 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 progress of the disease 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 through Tekakwitha for divine intercession, as did their family and friends, and an extended network contacted through their son's classmates. A Catholic nun, 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. The next day, the infection stopped its progression.