A Mohawk woman buried in Quebec will become the first Native American saint at a ceremony in October.
Kateri Tekakwitha, who spent most of her life in what is now Upstate New York, will become the first aboriginal saint when she and six others are canonized at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict made the announcement Saturday after he appointed 22 new cardinals.
Benedict had already approved miracles attributed to Tekakwitha, the final step toward sainthood. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” she was born in New York in 1656.
Tekakwitha is entombed in a marble shrine at the St. Francis Xavier Church in Kahnawake, Que.
Ron Boyer, the deacon at the church, says the community has been working toward this moment for a long time.
“I’m happy.. maybe I can rest now,” Boyer said in an interview Saturday. “I’ve been working on her cause, with my wife and our healing ministry, for the past 29 years.”
Tekakwitha died in 1680 at age 24, and the process for her canonization began more than a century ago, in 1884.
She was declared venerable in 1943. Pope John Paul beatified her in 1980, making her the first Native American to be beatified.
Tekakwitha had a difficult life. Her mother, father and brother died of small pox when she was four years old and she was scarred by the disease.
She was taken in by her uncle and aunt and got her first knowledge of Christianity from missionaries. She embraced it with zeal after being baptized when she was 18.
Tekakwitha practiced her faith despite severe opposition and eventually fled to the area now known as Kahnawake, south of Montreal along the St. Lawrence River.
It has been claimed that her scars disappeared upon her death, revealing great beauty, and that many sick people who attended her funeral were healed. It was also said that Tekakwitha appeared to two people in the weeks after she died.
The canonization ceremony will be held Oct. 21.
— With files from The Associated Press