St. Kateri Tekakwitha a model of perseverance for our current times

Photo of a stained glass window featuring St. Kateri Tekakwitha from St. Stephen, Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Chesapeake, Va., by Nheyob. (Wikimedia Commons)

EDGEFIELD—God’s love, along with the many blessings he has entrusted in us, will ultimately guide this country and the world through the current health, environmental and social upheaval.

That is the message that Deacon Larry Deschaine shared with people during the annual diocesan celebration of the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

“In her short life, St. Kateri experienced much of what we, as a planet and people, are currently experiencing,” Deacon Deschaine said, noting that she lost her family to a pandemic, experienced discrimination and persecution, and lived during a climate-changing event, also known as the “Little Ice Age”.

Devotees of St. Kateri from the diocese and beyond marked her feast day July 14 with a virtual celebration hosted by the diocesan office of Ethnic Ministries.

Known as “Lily of the Mohawks,” St. Kateri was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. She is the first Native American from the North American continent to be canonized and is recognized by the Church as patroness of the environment.

The theme of this year’s celebration “Healing Mother Earth and all her People”, featured Native American music and prayer led by Dominican Sister Trina McCormick, Sister Theresa Linehan of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sister Roberta Fulton of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, and Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

Sister Theresa led a Native American prayer celebration virtually from Maine, including a blessing of Earth with a mixture of sage, sweetgrass and cedar.

“Earth is our mother, our grandmother, and she is sacred,” Sister Theresa said while lighting the sage. “Every step taken upon her should be taken as a prayer.”

In closing the prayer service portion of the celebration, Bishop Guglielmone said St. Kateri was “a model of faith, loyalty and persistence in certainly living out her faith and spreading her faith. She had tremendous respect for all of God’s creation, and that was certainly part of her response to God.”

Born in upstate New York in 1656, St. Kateri’s father was Mohawk and her mother an Algonquin Catholic. Her family died in a smallpox epidemic, and she was raised by an uncle.

St. Kateri eventually moved to Canada because members of her tribe were hostile to her faith. There, she spent her days in prayer, attending Mass, and caring for the poor, elderly and sick.

She was 24 years old when she passed away in 1680.

Deacon Deschaine, from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Edgefield, spoke on ways Catholic and Native American spiritualty can guide people and help them apply healing tools “to flourish and persevere in life,” and especially in the current chaos.

A direct descendant of the Penobscot Nation in North America, Deacon Deschaine comes from a “long line of integrated Catholic Native American spirituality,” dating to the late 1600s.

“My family, through the many generations, has learned to fuse Catholicism with Native American spirituality,” he said.

Deacon Deschaine said surviving the Covid-19 pandemic, saving Earth environmentally, and ridding its people of social injustice requires scientists and clergy to work together.

The current unrest, he said, stems in part from a deep, unsatisfied, restless feeling of being unloved, unworthy, invisible and unvalued. But, Catholic Native American teaching “can help us learn how to live peacefully, deal with life’s challenges, heal, strengthen our immune systems, prosper, regenerate, and grow closer to God as people under the Catholic umbrella.”

Mary Louise Worthy, chief of the Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation in South Carolina and a member of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, also spoke at the event. She said her tribe currently includes nearly 500 members in 20 counties around the state and encouraged people to learn more about them at