AKWESASNE — Catholic North American Indians wait no more for Kateri Tekakwitha to be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI was to conduct the canonization ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City at 4 a.m. Eastern time today before thousands of worshipers, including a delegation of 500 from the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation at Akwesasne and the Kahnawà:ke Reservation near Montreal.
Tekakwitha, an Indian maiden of Mohawk and Algonquin descent, died in 1680 at age 24.
She was among seven people elevated to sainthood by the pope today.
Known as “the Lily of the Mohawks,” Tekakwitha was born in 1656 to a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin woman.
She was orphaned by age 4 when her parents and baby brother died in a smallpox epidemic, which left her scarred and with poor eyesight.
Tekakwitha was baptized in 1676 and received communion for the first time on Christmas Day 1677. She took a vow of perpetual virginity two years later and died April 17, 1680.
Her last words were: “Jesus, I love you.”
Two miracles are attributed to her and led to the declaration of sainthood.
The first was at her deathbed where witnesses saw her facial smallpox scars disappear and sick persons healed.
The second miracle was documented in 2006 when Jake Finkbonner of Washington state was cured of flesh-eating disease within six weeks of his family placing a Tekakwitha relic and a prayer card on his pillow when doctors gave him no hope for recovery.
The boy, now 11, was expected to be in Rome today for the ceremony.
Pope Pius XII declared Kateri venerable in 1943, and she was beatified by Pope John Paul II almost 35 years ago.
Alma Ransom was among the 55 North Country faithful who witnessed the beatification in 1980.
The delegation was told during a private audience later that day with Pope John Paul that “we’ll see the canonization within a short while.