Born in Auriesville (now part of New York), she was the first of two children. A brother followed. Tragically, at the age of four she witnessed a smallpox epidemic which none of her immediate family survived. She lived through the disease, but it damaged her eyesight and left with scars on her face and body even after she recovered. She was taken in by her uncle and aunts.
She converted to Christianity in her teens and was baptized Catholic at age twenty. She faced ill treatment and death threats for her conversion. Against the will of her uncle, she fled to live with a Christian community and took a private vow of perpetual virginity.
When Kateri died at the age of 24, minutes after her death, witnesses say her scars vanished and she appeared radiant and beautiful. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012. Various miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.
PHOTO : Sculptor Sr. Margaret Beaudette, SC, created this bronze statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha for the newly restored Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior. (Catholic Herald photo by Dan Sullivan)
The yearly Tekakwitha Conference gathering, held in various cities around the country for 74 years, is frequently referred to as a “family reunion.” Catholic Native Americans hailing from all over the USA and Canada converge on the host city to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate their Christian faith.
At its 75th anniversary gathering July 23-27 in Fargo, Thiel gave the Tekakwitha Conference an overview of its history, calling the organization a “transformative force” in American Indian Catholic communities.
The bishop of Fargo urged Native American Catholics to continue to look to the “unknown maiden in the wilderness” as their role model in walking humbly with God.
n the 75th anniversary of the Tekakwitha Conference, Native American Catholics came together again to review the past, plan for the future and recharge their faith.