The Vatican is reviewing documents that could lead to Kateri Tekakwitha being declared a saint, according to the priest in charge of the effort.
Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian woman who lived during the 1600s in villages around Auriesville and Fonda, was declared “holy” in 1980 by the Roman Catholic Church.
“Once a person is declared to be holy, there’s only one more thing necessary for our canonization process … there has to be a definite miracle,” said Monsignor Paul A. Lenz, the vice-postulator in charge of the effort to win sainthood for Tekakwitha.
Lenz said that following two years of research, he and a team of doctors put together documents that he believes prove that Tekakwitha performed a miracle more than 300 years after she died.
Lenz said that he and others on the team have taken an oath not to reveal details of the miracle. He would only confirm that the act believed attributable to Tekakwitha produced an outcome that several doctors testified in writing was beyond their medical skill.
“We do have real hopes for it,” he said.
Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in an Indian village which is now Auriesville and survived smallpox that claimed her parents and brother, according to the Web site of the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda.
After the Indian village in Auriesville was destroyed by a war party of French soldiers and Indians, she and other survivors moved to a fortified village on the north side of the Mohawk River, the remains of which are situated on property at the shrine in Fonda.
In the face of opposition from her uncle, who mistrusted settlers who brought smallpox to the Indian community, she began studying the Catholic faith, according to the shrine.
She suffered ridicule, accusations and threats before escaping to a mission in Canada.
During her time in Canada, Tekakwitha was known for teaching prayers to children and helping the elderly and sick. She died in 1680 at age 23, and she is buried in Quebec.
Lenz said Jesuit missionaries who knew Tekakwitha recorded volumes of information throughout Tekakwitha’s history, and that information shows that she lived a holy life.
“They recognized a very, very special person, a person of prayer, of sacrifices; she really lived as a saint,” Lenz said.
Lenz said there is no timetable or deadline for the Vatican to review the documentation and make a decision on sainthood for Tekakwitha.
If she is approved for sainthood, it will be a first for an American Indian.