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The first Native American to be canonized, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was a young woman who encountered much opposition in her attempts to live her life devoted wholly to God. St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the daughter of a Mohawk fighter. She was born in 1656 near Auriesville, N.Y. Her mother was killed by smallpox when Kateri was only 4 years old. Adopted by aunts, she became a Christian during her teen years.

Baptized when she turned 20, Kateri lived a life of prayer with Indian converts in Canada. Referred to as “Lily of the Mohawks,” she established ministries in North American Catholic churches. She died in 1680.

Kateri’s shrine at her birth place and Caughnawaga have drawn many pilgrims to this day. She was venerated by the Catholic church in 1943. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her on Oct. 21, 2012. She was the first Native American to be named saint. Her feast day is July 14. Similar to St. Francis of Assisi, she is the patron saint of ecology and the environment.

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