Today, All Saints Day, we note the canonization of another saint is always a celebration for the Roman Catholic Church, but the recognition of Kateri Tekakwitha in Vatican City in October was especially significant for Native Americans.
It was the first time a Native American has been canonized a saint.
Kateri was born a Mohawk in an area just west of Albany at Ossernenon, present-day Auriesville, and she lived much of her life at Caughnawaga, now called Fonda.
She lived a simple life as a youngster. After being baptized a Catholic on Easter in 1676 at age 20, she made a vow of virginity ... something foreign to her native culture. Her life was not always an easy one. Her parents and her brother died of smallpox. She survived, but was left scarred and visually impaired. Some Mohawks opposed her conversion, accusing her of sorcery and sexual promiscuity, so she journeyed for safe haven to the Jesuit mission of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, Canada. And she wasn't easy on herself in practicing acts of penance, sacrifice and prayer, especially for the conversion of other Indians.
Kateri died at age 24. Today she is the patroness of the environment and ecology.
The process that leads to canonization, which is a formal recognition of heroic virtue, can be long and arduous, with intense scrutiny of candidates by the church and validation by miracles that reportedly have no medical explanation.
What stands out in people such as Kateri who are recognized for heroic, God-centered lives is that they took very seriously the commitment Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
Kateri's last dying whisper was said to be "Jesus, I love you."