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August 10, 2012

Akwesasne artist's work heading to Vatican

(Continued)

‘A GREAT HONOR’

Tekakwitha, born in 1656, lost her immediate family to a smallpox epidemic when she was 4, which left her scarred and partially blind.

“There’s a hint of smallpox on her face. No other portrait has that,” Thompson said. 

“Her eyes are partially white,” he added, to portray her troubled eyesight.

To prepare for the project, Thompson said he read a number of books about Tekakwitha and talked with church elders. The portrait, itself, represents about 40 hours with pen in hand.

Thompson, who has been drawing almost his whole life, said he’s received a lot of congratulations and well-wishes from the St. Regis Mohawk community.

“It’s a great honor, a big honor, especially to my family. It’s the biggest thing I can name that can actually happen to me,” he said, adding that the portrait will be presented as a gift to the pope. 

Thompson’s mother, Connie Thompson of Akwesasne, will be traveling to Italy for the canonization ceremony. One day he would love to visit the Vatican, too. 

LONG JOURNEY

Tekakwitha’s journey to sainthood has been a long one, one many Mohawk Roman Catholics have prayed for for many years.  

Two miracles have been attributed to her, one at her funeral on April 17, 1680, when witnesses saw her scars disappear and sick people were suddenly healed; and one in 2006, when flesh-eating disease that was killing a 5-year-old boy healed after the family prayed intensely to her for help for three weeks.

Pope Pius XII declared her venerable in 1943, and she was the first Native American beatified in a dedication made in 1980 by Pope John Paul II.

“She’s a symbol of all Catholic Mohawks,” Thompson said. “She led the way of that religion.”

Email Rachael Osborne:

rosborne@pressrepublican.com

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