KAREN CALLAWAY | CATHOLIC NEW WORLD
A painting of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha by Meltem Aktas hangs in the chapel at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill.
The decision to canonize Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was the first decision approved by the College of Cardinals following their Feb. 18 installation.
"I am delighted that my first action as a cardinal was to join with the College of Cardinals in affirming the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who has been such an inspiration for the people of our First Nations and so many others in Canada and the United States," said Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins.
Blessed Kateri, the 17th century "Lily of the Mohawks" who lived in both what are now Canada and the United States, and other holy men and women will be canonized on Oct. 21 at the Vatican. Kateri will be the first North American aboriginal saint.
Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the announcement on behalf of Canada's bishops.
Smith noted Kateri was born in what is now New York State, so the canonization is "a great honour" for all of North America, but especially for aboriginal peoples.
Canadians "rejoice together with our American brothers and sisters in this joyful news," the archbishop said.
John Paul II described Blessed Kateri as "an example of fidelity . . . a model of purity and love," he said.
'We therefore humbly ask: 'Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!' Help us imitate your life of devotion to Our Lord, summed up in your dying words: 'Jesos konoronkwa!' - 'Jesus, I love you!'" Smith said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also welcomed the canonization. "This will be a great day for Canadian Catholics and a deep honour for our country."
Born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York, Kateri was raised by relatives after her parents died in a smallpox epidemic when she was four.
When she became a Christian at age 20, she had to flee her family to escape the wrath of her relatives. After arriving in Canada, Kateri astounded the Jesuits with her deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
She devoted herself to prayer, teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and elderly.