Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 3, 2006
Christian slaves awakened Kateri's spirit
The Blackrobes took young Kateri Tekakiwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, into their Jesuit mission
Blessed Kateri – April 17
By TED FITZGERALD
Her relatives were violently anti-Christian and tormented her constantly.
Adopted by an uncle, Tekakwitha grew up as a popular tribe member, working in the fields of corn and squash at the new village of Ganawage and becoming an accomplished artisan and clothing maker.
She developed an interest in Christianity from her mother's friend Anastasia and from some of the Mohawk's Christian Huron and Algonquin slaves.
In 1667, three Jesuit missionaries were allowed into Ganawage and were tended by Tekakwitha, the first step in her conversion and baptism in 1676 under the name of Catherine (Kateri).
This began a period of great difficulty for her, since her relatives were violently anti-Christian and tormented her constantly.
Fortunately, within a year she was rescued through the efforts of the great Mohawk, Ganeagowa, a convert who resided at a village of prayer on the St. Lawrence River. Under cover of darkness, Kateri was taken north by canoe over the tortuous 124-km water route along Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River to the Christian village, then on the site of present-day Cote-Sainte-Catherine.
At her death, her face reverted to a healthy, youthful appearance.
This mission had been founded 10 years earlier especially for the Mohawk people in what is now La Prairie and its location later moved several times upstream.
Once established in the village of prayer, Kateri became completely absorbed in her faith, performing many austerities and regularly fasting, spending long hours in the chapel and routinely visiting and tending the sick and elderly of the settlement.
In her short lifetime she was considered a saint by her neighbours. Her passing provided the first in a series of miraculous occurrences associated with this holy woman.
As attested to by hundreds of witnesses, at her death, her face reverted to a healthy, youthful appearance. Lines of age and care disappeared permanently as did the disfiguring smallpox scars.
In 1943, Kateri was declared venerable and in 1972, her remains were moved to the west transept of the church at Kahnawake.
Pope John Paul II designated the Mohawk woman blessed in 1980 and efforts continue to effect her eventual canonization to join the ranks of the Church's official saints.
St. Francis Mission was established on its present site in 1716 and the church, with many additions and modifications, is of great historic interest. Obvious focus for many visitors is the tomb of Blessed Kateri, made of white Carrara marble, inscribed with her name in Mohawk and English, the years 1656-1680 and lily and turtle symbols.
The simplicity of the devotional site appropriately reflects the life of the person resting there.
The church complex, museum and gift shop are open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and daily Mass is celebrated here, plus three on weekends.
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