Illustration credit: Be A Heart
Learn the story of St. Kateri
Saint Kateri was the first Native American saint from the territories of what would become the United States and Canada. She is the patron saint of the Native American and First Nations People, integral ecology, and the environment. Kateri’s father was a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) chief and her mother was an Algonquin Catholic. Unfortunately, a smallpox epidemic took the lives of her parents and younger brother, and also left her forever weakened, partially blind, and with scarred skin. She was adopted by her two aunts and uncle (also a Mohawk chief) once her parents died. At the age of 19, she converted to Christianity. She chose to leave her tribe because of the increased hostility she experienced due to her faith. She walked 200 miles (which took her 2 months) to a nearby Christian town where she lived the rest of her life. She was known there as “Lily of the Mohawks”. When she died at age 24, witnesses say that her scars disappeared, and her skin shone with a “holy radiance." St. Kateri Tekakwitha blended her Native American upbringing with a love of God to take care of nature and praise God’s creation.
Learn about St. kateri's name
Kateri’s baptismal name is “Catherine,” which in the Haudenosaunee (“Iroquois”) language is “Kateri.”
Kateri’s Haudenosaunee name, “Tekakwitha,” can be translated as “One who places things in order” or “To put all into place.”
Other translations include, “She pushes with her hands” and “One who walks groping for her way” (because of her faulty eyesight).
How to pronounce her name
Kateri’s name is often pronounced as kä’tu-rē.
Her Haudenosaunee name, Tekakwitha, is often pronounced tek”u-kwith’u.
Tekakwitha is occasionally spelled Tegakouita.
The Haudenosaunee pronunciation of Kateri’s name is often described as Gah-Dah-LEE Degh-Agh-WEEdtha, Gah the lee Deh gah qwee tah, or Gaderi Dega’gwita.
The image above features the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs - Huadenosaunee Confederacy Logo.
St. Kateri's father was from the Turtle Clan within the Mohawk Nation. Because of this, St. Kateri is often depicted with turtles.
Photo by Łukasz Dańczak on Unsplash
5 Ways To Celebrate Saint Kateri!
Attend Eucharistic Adoration
Kateri would spend hours, sometimes entire days in Eucharistic Adoration in the church (even during the coldest weather in Canada)!
Make a plan to go to adoration this week for an hour.
If you're unable to attend, tune into virtual adoration or carve out space for your own Holy Hour.
Make small wooden crosses
When the winter hunting season took Kateri and villagers away from the village, she made her own little chapel in the woods by making a wooden cross. She would spend her time in prayer, kneeling in the snow.
How to make a wooden cross like Kateri
- Find two sticks
- Tie them together in the shape of a cross with some twine or string
- Say a simple prayer (Kateri's last words and prayer was, "Jesus, I love you.")
- Leave the crosses around your neighborhood or nearby natural area for others to find as a delightful surprise
Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash
Pictured above: St. Joseph Mission School students after a native cultural celebration.
Support an organization helping Indigenous People
A few of our favorite organizations:
A Catholic nonprofit committed to advocacy and evangelization on behalf of the many communities of indigenous people across North America. This group hosts conferences for Indigenous Catholic People to reinforce their Catholic identity, affirm pride in their cultures and spiritual traditions and advocate for peace, justice and healing on behalf of Indigenous communities.
St. Joseph Mission School
A Pre-K through 8th grade Catholic school that has served the Acoma and Laguna indigenous pueblos in San Fidel, NM since 1923. They believe in educating the whole child by giving them the tools to thrive in life, become life-long learners, deepen their faith, care for the environment and others, and affirm their cultural pride and traditions. St. Joseph's is very passionate and committed to restorative justice for local indigenous communities. They encourage students to be fully native and fully Catholic.
Other great organizations:
Free St. Kateri's lily coloring page
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is often depicted with a lily, which symbolizes purity. She is the first known Native American to take a perpetual vow of celibacy.
In honor of her, color this page and consider the lilies with your little ones!
Looking for more inspiration on how to celebrate the Liturgical seasons?
Living The Seasons: Simple Ways To Celebrate The Beauty Of Your Faith Throughout The Year is a full-color guide to creatively celebrate our faith. Each page is filled with beautiful inspiration with effortless directions to celebrate feast days, holy days and seasons within the Church. This will be your resource for living liturgically! Now available for pre-order on our website.