This week the Vatican will canonize its first ever Native American saint, Kateri Tekakwitha. As the Catholic Church has already bestowed such status on 10,000 other people, this is a pretty big deal. A member of the Mohawk tribe who lived in the seventeenth century, Kateri was chosen for canonization following the miraculous recovery of a five-year old boy in 2006. Large numbers of Catholic Native Americans from the US and Canada will make the journey to Rome to witness the recognition of their own personal Saint by Pope Benedict XVI. Coverage of the canonizaton appears in the current edition Time News Feed, and elsewhere. As Sorcha Pollack writes, “Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as Lily of the Mohawks, was born in 1656 in what is today upstate New York. At the time, Dutch, English and French colonialists were fighting for control of the territory and brought with them foreign diseases. When her village was hit by a smallpox epidemic, both her parents and younger brother were killed. Kateri survived but was left with scars on her face and seriously impaired vision. It was because of her poor eyesight that she came to be known as Tekakwitha meaning “she who bumps into things.” She converted to Catholicism when she was twenty years old.
“Tekakwitha was actually beautified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II and was made patroness of the World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto in 2002. However, the Catholic Church further confirmation of a true miracle in order to canonize her. That came in 2006, when a five year-old Seattle boy named Jake Finkbonner fell and cut his lip while playing basketball. Within 24 hours, Jake was in intensive care fighting a deadly flesh-eating bacterium that was consuming the skin on his face. Doctors tried various surgeries to remove the infection from the young boy’s face but it continued to spread. Then a local priest, Tim Sauer, decided that because Jake was half Lummi Indian, local parishioners should pray to Kateri Tekakwitha to intervene. After three weeks of an induced comma the infection stopped spreading and Jake recovered.”