July 10, 2024 at 9:40 a.m.

LILY OF THE MOHAWKS

Celebrate the feast day of our local saint - St. Kateri Tekakwitha - this Sunday
A statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized, is seen at Our Lady of the Island Shrine in Manorville, N.Y., March 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
A statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized, is seen at Our Lady of the Island Shrine in Manorville, N.Y., March 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (Courtesy photo of Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Father Thomas Morrette | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

This Sunday, July 14, is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. (Sunday is also the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time so her feast gets a liturgical back seat this year.)

As most of you know, St. Kateri was born in 1656 near Amsterdam, N.Y., and is very much our own local saint. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” and one of the first bright lights of Christian faith in our area who was canonized in 2012.

In her youth, Kateri was converted to Catholicism by Jesuit missionaries. She took to prayer and meditation quickly and spent countless hours with the Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament. As time went on, she asked the local missionaries to take a vow of perpetual virginity so she could belong entirely to Christ and to spread his kingdom among her people. An orphan, her life was one of great hardship but she never wavered in her faith despite what she suffered. For example, she was shunned by her own tribe for her new and curious way of life. Having contracted smallpox, which left her face scarred and disfigured, she was left with impaired eyesight. Referred to as “the woman who bumps into things,” she was constantly maligned by both her relatives and those in her village. She eventually left her home and moved near the Jesuits in Canada who had an established safe mission there. She stayed with them until her death in 1680. She was 24. She was then interred near a small village church on a reservation in the village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, her tomb now inside the church. 

A few years ago, a priest-friend and I decided to track down this church to visit her tomb during summer vacation. The church is a half-hour drive from Montreal. The village was bleak, poor and isolated. While there, I keep thinking about how consistent it is that she still remains among her own, the poor, even as she now lives in glory. My friend and I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass on the altar in the church that day. I asked God that, through her prayers, many graces would be given to our Diocese as we face our own challenges and setbacks at this time. St. Kateri is a sterling example of perseverance in the face of trials — a good example for us in changing times.

As a kid, I attended our diocesan camp for boys called Camp Tekakwitha on Lake Luzerne. The camp is long gone but I have great memories of my experiences there. Father Joe Delaney, a diocesan priest, was camp director there for many years. He was a sterling priest and example and he loved telling the story about Kateri to his enthusiastic campers. It was ironic that many years after his service there ended, he died on her feast day in 1998. Coincidence? I think not.

St. Kateri, pray for us.

Father Morrette is pastor at The Catholic Community of Our Lady of Victory in Troy, Our Lady of the Snow Mission in Grafton and Christ Sun of Justice Parish in Troy.


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