She contracted smallpox as a four-year-old child which scarred her skin. The scars were a source of humiliation in her youth. She was commonly seen wearing a blanket to hide her face. Worse, her entire family died during the outbreak. Kateri Tekakwitha was subsequently raised by her uncle, who was the chief of a Mohawk clan.
Kateri was known as a skilled worker, who was diligent and patient. However, she refused to marry. When her adoptive parents proposed a suitor to her, she refused to entertain the proposal. They punished her by giving her more work to do, but she did not give in. Instead, she remained quiet and diligent. Eventually they were forced to relent and accept that she had no interest in marriage.
At age 19, Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ and thus she is known as the Lily of the Mohawks. Her decision not to marry was very unpopular with her adoptive parents and their neighbors. Some of her neighbors started rumors of sorcery. To avoid persecution, she traveled to a Christian native community south of Montreal. Thus, she lived in what later became both the USA and Canada, making her a perfect choice for WUCWO's North America Region Patroness. Kateri was very devout and was known for her steadfast devotion. Sadly, just five years after her conversion to Catholicism, she became ill and passed away at age 24, on April 17, 1680.
Her name, Kateri, is the Mohawk form of Catherine, which she took from St. Catherine of Siena.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012. She is the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans. Her Feast Day is July 14.