Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be declared a Saint of the Catholic church and known as the patroness of environment and ecology, was canonized on Oct. 21 by Pope Benedict XVI. A statue of Saint Kateri can be found on the grounds of Queen of Martyrs Church, 180 George Urban Blvd., Cheektowaga.
Born at Auriesville, N.Y. in 1656, and baptized at Fonda, N.Y. in 1676, St. Kateri was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was just four years old when her mother died of smallpox, and the disease also attacked Kateri and transfigured her face.
Kateri became converted as a teenager and was baptized in Fonda, N.Y. at the age of 20, incurring hostilities from her tribe. Although she had to suffer greatly for her faith, she remained firm in it. She later relocated to Canada where she lived a life dedicated to prayer and care for the sick and aged.
Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic churches throughout the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was beatified in 1980. She died at Caughnawaga, Canada, on April 17, 1680, and her feast day is now celebrated on July 14.