On October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American woman from New York, was canonized a saint. Kateri trusted in God at all times, even when people were against her. She is an example of faith for our lives today.
Here is her story plus learning activities to share with your students.
Learns about Jesus
It was a time when Native American people lived in what is now upstate New York. In 1656, a little girl was born; her mother was an Algonquin and her father was a Mohawk. The little girl was named Tekakwitha. When Tekakwitha was 4 years old, a smallpox epidemic killed her parents and left her partially blind. She went to live with her uncle.
When Tekakwitha was 18 years old, Jesuit missionaries came to the village. Tekakwitha listened as they told stories about Jesus that touched her heart. When Tekakwitha was 19, she asked to be baptized a Catholic. She was baptized on Easter Sunday in 1676 and given the name Kateri.
Lives Her Faith
Kateri often went into the woods to pray. There she saw the beauty of God’s creation. She would make twig crosses as reminders to pray. The people of Kateri’s village made life very difficult for her, though, because of her Catholic faith. Even so, she continued to follow Jesus each day.
When she was 20 years old, Kateri left her village with the help of others. She travelled by canoe and on foot to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier in Canada. The people welcomed her, and she received her First Communion in 1677.
Kateri was a person of great faith in God. She prayed often in the chapel. She was a caring person who helped the sick and the elderly in her new village. She shared stories about Jesus with the children. These were the same stories she had learned from the missionaries.
Lily of the Mohawks
Kateri’s health was always poor because of the smallpox she had as a child. She was only 24 years old when she died in 1680. Her last words were “Jesus, I love you.” Her courage and trust in God is an example for all of us. When people don’t understand us, we can remember St. Kateri Tekakwitha and how she followed Jesus in all things. Her feast day is July 14. She is called Lily of the Mohawks.
Here are some ideas to help children learn about the example of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Act out events in St. Kateri’s life: Have a narrator read the story so no lines need to be memorized. Scenes can include St. Kateri listening to the Jesuit priests, being baptized, and praying in the woods; people making fun of St. Kateri; and St. Kateri leaving her village, teaching children, and helping the sick.
Make a prayer cross to remember to pray like St. Kateri: Have children make crosses out of twigs, tying two twigs at the center with thin yarn. They can make as many as they like, give them to family and friends, and share the story of St. Kateri.
Rejoice in God’s creation like St. Kateri: St. Kateri is one of the patron saints of ecology. Talk about ways to take care of the resources God has entrusted to us, such as recycling, using less water, and planting trees.
Draw pictures of how to be like St. Kateri: Depict scenes of how a person might react when being made fun of, helping others, or praying in different places. Encourage children to share their pictures and stories of St. Kateri Tekakwitha with their families.
Patricia Mathson has many years of experience in faith formation as a DRE and holds an MRE degree from the University of Dallas. She is the children’s ministry coordinator at Hope Family Center in Des Moines, IA. She is the author of many books including Plant the Seed: Sharing the Gospel with Children (Liguori Publications).
Copyright 2012, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article appeared in Catechist magazine, September 2012.
PHOTO: Stained glass of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha | Saint Stephen Catholic Church, Chesapeake, Virginia | photo by Nheyob