Tekakwitha, Blessed Kateri

Tekakwitha, Blessed Kateri

(1656–80) Indian Catholic convert; born in Ossernenon, in Mohawk territory (now Auriesville, N.Y.) When she was three years old, a smallpox epidemic killed her mother (a Catholic but not allowed to practice) and father; she herself was scarred and partially blinded by the disease. Raised by an anti-Catholic uncle, but inspired by Jesuit missionaries, she took instruction and was baptized a Catholic at age 20. To escape continuing persecution she fled a year later to a Christian Indian village near Montreal, where, in her brief remaining life, she became noted for religious fervor and extreme asceticism. She was beatified in 1980.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.