A small pox epidemic swept through the Mohawk village and claimed the lives of Tekakwitha’s parents and baby brother. She survived the disease but it left her eyesight impaired and her body scarred. It also left her physically weak for the rest of her life.
Orphaned at age 4, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle.
In 1670, St Peter’s Mission was established in Caughnawage (now Fonda, New York). Four years later, Father James Le Lamberville became responsible for the new mission. Tekakwitha met Father de Lamberville and expressed her desire for baptism.
On April 5, 1676 she was baptized and was given the name Kateri. In August 1677, Kateri was encouraged and assisted to leave her Mohawk village at Sault St. Louis, St Francis Xavier mission near Montreal. After a long and sternuous trip, she arrived at the Sault with the help of friends. Finally, she would be able to practice her Christian ways with great openness and freedom.
On Christmas Day, 1677, Kateri received her first Holy Communion. On March, 1679, Kateri pronounced her vow of perpetual virginity. Her life was devoted to teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and aged until she bacame very frail and weak. On April 17, 1680, she died at age 24. Her last words were “Iesos konoronkwa” “Jesus, I love you.” A few minutes after her death, those around her bedside witnessed the ugly scars on her face suddenly disappear. On January 3, 1943, she was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII. On June 22, 1980, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome. Kateri Tekawitha is the first Native American to achieve sainthood. On October 21, 2012 Kateri was canonized and was beautified as St. Kateri by Pope Benedict XVI.