Celebrating St. Kateri Tekakwitha
"Lily in the Snow" painting by Karla Aurora Kozach (find out how you can enter the painting sweepstakes at katerishrine.org/news-events)

Celebrating St. Kateri Tekakwitha

The Saint Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine and Historic Site is located in Fonda, New York. We are celebrating Saint Kateri's Feast Day on July 14 and through July 16. On July 15, Dr. Damian Costello will present "St. Kateri's Rosary and Black Elk's Buffalo Skull." On the 15th and 16th, come for Mass with Traditional Purification Rite and Solemn Blessing with the relic of Saint Kateri, and hear music from the Akwesasne Mohawk Choir.

The story below is excerpted from friar Joseph Wood’s presentation on Franciscans & Culture.

In 1938, Friar Thomas Grassmann (author, professor, and archeologist) discovered the site of St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s (+1680) Mohawk Castle/Village of Caughnawaga. Grassmann identified post molds of a stockade line, pinpointing the location and led the thorough exploration of the site from 1950 to 1956. 

Excavation revealed a fortified, gated wooden double stockade, called a “castle,” and 12 long houses, covered with elm bark, inhabited by the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk from 1666-1693. Because of this, the Bishop of Albany offered the site to the Conventuals to create a shrine dedicated to “The Lily of the Mohawks” with Grassmann named as the first director. It was only in 1950, however, working together with the New York State Archaeological Association of which he was a Fellow, that Grassmann was finally able to excavate the site. His book, The Mohawk Indians and their Valley, became a noted scholarly resource on the early history of the Mohawk Nation.

The fortified stockade had been inhabited by the Turtle Clan of the Mohawks from 1666-1693. It was here where Kateri Tekakwitha had lived for part of her life and where she had been baptized. Having created a shrine as well as a Mohawk-Caughnawaga Museum, in 1973, the Caughnawaga Castle Site was declared a National Historical Place. Caughnawaga remains the only completely excavated Iroquois village in North America. Grassmann was honored by burial on the site he excavated.

The site became a Shrine in 1980 when Kateri was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on June 22. Only then could she be venerated officially. Canonized to Sainthood on October 21, 2012, Saint Kateri is patroness of peace and ecology.

Learn more about Saint Kateri and the National Shrine and Historic Site: katerishrine.org

The only known portrait from life of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, c. 1690, by Father Claude Chauchetière (from katerishrine.org)