|Kateri Tekakwitha (http://conservation.catholic.org/kateri.htm) (Meltam Aktas, artist)
My hero’s heart is so full of love for Christ. She turned away from the religion her tribe practiced to become a Catholic. Despite being a disgrace to the whole Mohawk Tribe, Kateri Tekakwitha (“The Lily of the Mohawks”) chose to believe in God, the one and only.
Born in 1656, Tekakwitha was a Mohawk Indian. Her father was a chief of the Mohawk Tribe and her mother a Catholic Algonquin (a Native American tribe near Ottowa.) Tekakwitha became an orphan when her mother, father, and baby brother all died along with several other members of the tribe due to smallpox.
Tekakwitha lived, but was left scarred and half-blind. This is how she got her name. Tekakwitha means “The One Who Walks Groping For Her Way.” She went to live with her uncle and two aunts, and after the smallpox went away, the survivors moved and built a new settlement, roughly five miles away from the Mohawk River, called Caughnawaga. Tekakwitha grew up as a normal Indian girl. She did chores in the field, forest, and in her house, and played with other girls. Despite her poor vision, Tekakwitha believed very strongly that you were to put yourself before others, always. Even though her sight was not strong, she learned how to do excellent beadwork.
Despite the fact she was not a baptized Catholic, Tekakwitha’s mother taught her a lot about prayer before she died. Tekakwitha liked to go into the forest to talk and listen to God. When she was eighteen, a “Blackrobe” as the Mohawks called a priest established a mission on the banks of the river. This interested her even more and she longed to know more about Jesus Christ and becoming a Christian. When she was twenty, she was baptized Catholic on Easter Sunday. Father de Lamberville, the priest who opened the mission, gave her the name of Kateri, the Mohawk form of the name Catherine. The Mohawks were not happy with Kateri’s decision, and they mocked her, threw stones at her, and threatened her to death if she didn’t give up Catholicism. They also denied her food because she wouldn’t work on Sundays.
Shortly after this, Kateri left the village and traveled far north through the forest on foot for two months and reached the Saint Francis-Xavier Sault-Saint Louis by Montreal. Since she took this 200-mile journey, this proved her worthy to take her First Holy Communion (receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) on Christmas of 1677. For the next two years, she would teach little children everything she knew about Jesus and she would pray in the chapel for hours on end everyday. In 1679, Kateri made a promise to remain a virgin and unmarried so she could devote her life to pleasing Christ. She wanted to open a mission for Native American Sisters (nuns) but with her health going down each day, her spiritual director advised not to do it. When she was twenty-four she died with her last words, “Jesus, I love you,” lingering on her lips. Moments after she died, all the scars on her face vanished and at once she became beautiful. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be considered for sainthood. This makes her my hero because she had the strength to stand up against her family and follow her own beliefs, and you see now her reward.