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Tekakwitha becomes the first Native American to be canonized

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tekakwitha, a Native American known for her life of simplicity and sacrifice in the service of the Catholic Church became one of two Americans among seven others who reached sainthood status this weekend at the Vatican in Rome. The other American, Mother Marianne Cope, who was born in Germany but came to the United States as a child, was recognized for her work with those ailing from leprosy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a ceremony attended by many other Native Americans, Pope Benedict XVI named 17th century Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native American saint. The event was celebrated at a special Mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday morning.

Born in 1656 to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father, Tekakwitha -- was converted by Jesuit missionaries as a child. After surviving smallpox and left orphaned, she became known for her deep spiritualism before dying at just 24.

Dedicating her life to God, Tekakwitha traveled north to serve as a nun in Canada, according to the Kateri Center in Kahnawake, Quebec. When she died in 1680 at age 24, witnesses said her face had been made beautiful again, in what they believe was a sign of God's love.

She was declared venerable by Pope Pius XII in 1943 and then beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

"This is a great weekend for America in the Vatican, and it's really a great weekend for Native Americans. Sainthood is the guarantee that this person is close to God," Vatican senior communications adviser Greg Burke said.

"There's a vast history of people the Catholic Church has made saints over the centuries. Holiness is absolutely a matter of equal opportunity, but this certainly is special because it marks the first time a Native American becomes a saint."

Pope Benedict praised Tekakwitha, whom he said lived a simple life of service.

"Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer, and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity," the pope said.

Tekakwitha's canonization followed a miracle recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Jake Finkbonner was only five years old when he became infected by the flesh-eating virus after falling down while playing basketball in 2006. The infection spread quickly through the tissue of his face. Medical attention did nothing to halt the progress of the disease.

The family's pastor suggested prayer in the name of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Jake's infection quickly cleared up -- and after reviewing the medical evidence, Vatican officials declared it a miracle.

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