Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in New York in the seventeenth century. Since her canonization in 2012, she is now remembered on in the liturgical calendar on July 14 and is a patron saint of the environment. She found God in the peace and silence of nature, and encourages us all to find time for contemplative prayer. Her legacy inspires ministry of the Catholic Church for Native American Catholics to this day.
“She did have many struggles in her life—the smallpox epidemic that claimed the lives of her parents and her brother. She was disfigured—almost blind—and there was a great holiness in her. Only lived 24 years and she also raises our minds and hearts to embrace the natural resources that God has given us for the common good,” explained John Harper, host of Morning Air.
Despite the losses she suffered—losing her entire immediate family at the age of four—she became a holy woman that we remember today. “She didn’t let that deter her from continuing to be kind and charitable,” said Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico.
Saint Kateri converted to the Catholic Faith and was baptized at 19 years old. “Even when people didn’t understand her faith, even when her uncle tried to marry her off and she didn’t want to be married because she understood that she had one spouse and that was Christ … so even when all those difficult things happened to her, she remained steadfast in her faith. She remained charitable, which is the most important of all the virtues, and she always remained kind,” said Bishop Wall. We can learn from St. Kateri that even when things are going badly and we feel like feeling sorry for ourselves or lashing out in anger, that we must continue to persevere and treat others with great love.
That virtue inspires us today
“She’s a very very special saint and somebody who is very near and dear to my heart, especially in our diocese. We are the highest percentage of Native Americans in any diocese throughout the United States,” explained Bishop Wall.
“I think because the percentage of Native American Catholics in the United States it might be small, and I think because of that, unfortunately it can fall through the cracks a little bit,” said Bishop Wall. “I serve as the Chair of the Subcommittee for Native American Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have seven wonderful bishops from around the United States that serve on that [committee] and that’s one of the things we try to do—we try to help to promote our Catholic faith amongst the Native American peoples, but also at the bishops’ conference we try to give a voice to the Native American Catholics.”
The history of the Catholic Church in America begins with our Native American brothers and sisters. “They were the first to receive the Faith in our country if you think about that. The missionaries, when they first arrived, they were the first to be evangelized.”
For more about Saint Kateri and ministry to Native American Catholics, listen to the full podcast here: