Kateri Tekakwitha to become first Native American saint

Kateri Tekakwitha – whose smallpox scars are said to have healed on her deathbed – is to become the first Native American saint on Oct. 21, Pope Benedict XVI said today.

After naming 22 cardinals, the pope announced the church would make seven new saints, including Tekakwitha and another American woman, Mother Marianne Cope, the Associated Press said.

Tekakwitha’s father was Mohawk and her mother Algonquin. She was born in 1656 in upstate New York, but lost her parents and younger brother four years later during a smallpox outbreak. She survived with damaged eyesight and scarring.

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After the French army burned her village down when she was 10, Tekakwitha moved north to a mission along the St. Lawrence River in what’s now Quebec.

At St. Francois Xavier du Sault, she encountered a Mohawk community with about a dozen nuns and converted to Catholicism by age 20, the Montreal Gazette said.

She died at age 24, and her body is enshrined in a marble tomb in Kahnawake, Que.

It was upon her death that the two miracles necessary to become a saint are to have happened. Tekakwitha’s facial scars healed and those who attended her funeral are also said to have healed. After her death, she appeared to two different people.

Mother Marianne was born in Germany in 1838, and moved to the United States 11 years later, working in New York and with lepers in Hawaii.

Although she died in 1918, the church credits her with two miracles, in 1992 and 2005. Two women with deadly diseases said they were healed after praying to Mother Marianne.

The others to become saints are Italian Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Frenchman Jacques Berthieu, Philippino teenager Pedro Calungsod, Germany's Anna Schäfer and Spanish nun Mary of Mount Carmel.

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