She was known as “The Lily of the Mohawks.” Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) was an American Indian woman born near the Canadian border (present-day Auriesville, N.Y.) She is also the first Indian to become canonized a Roman Catholic saint.
Taos artist and author Giovanna Paponetti has become an important part of the effort to bring Kateri to this status. She will be delivering a lecture on how the events unfolded Friday (Nov. 30), 6 p.m., at the Taos Pueblo Community Center, 220 Rotten Tree Road, Taos Pueblo.
Paponetti will also be available afterward to sign copies of a special “commemorative canonization edition” of her book, “Kateri: Native American Saint: The Life and Miracles of Kateri Tekakwitha.”
In Paponetti’s lecture, she will talk about her trip to the Vatican in Rome to attend the canonization, as well her work to paint a commission for altar panels based on events in Kateri’s life that she completed in 2010 for the St. John the Baptist Church at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, according to a press release.
At the event, Taos Pueblo Lt. Gov. Gilbert Suazo and the Taos Pueblo Singers will perform a special song composed especially for Kateri Tekakwitha. Members of the Guadalupanas of San Geronimo Church will also be introduced by Lorraine Concha Martinez.
Through her research, Paponetti has learned a great deal about this woman and the circumstances that led to her beatification by Pope John Paul II on June 22, 1980, and canonization as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012, in a ceremony held at the Vatican.
According to the Kateri Tekakwitha website (www.kateritekakwitha.org), she was born of a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. Saint Kateri was influenced by the fervent Christianity of her mother and of the “Black Robes” to live a life of remarkable virtue, at heart not only a Christian, “a praying Indian,” but a Christian virgin.
Father Pierre Cholenec, a witness at her deathbed, was reported to say that at the time of her death, Kateri’s face “so disfigured and so swarthy in life, suddenly changed about 15 minutes after her death, and in an instant became so beautiful and so fair that just as soon as I saw it (I was praying by her side) I let out a yell, I was so astonished, and I sent for the priest who was working at the repository for the Holy Thursday service. At the news of this prodigy, he came running along with some people who were with him. We then had the time to contemplate this marvel right up to the time of her burial.”
In 1998, Paponetti was commissioned by the town of Taos to paint four large historical murals, beginning with Taos Pueblo in the year 1300. She has been an adjunct professor in the art department at the University of New Mexico-Taos since 2001.
Proceeds from book sales will go toward the purchase of a frame for the print, “Kateri with Her Community of Women,” that the artist donated to the San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo in 2011. Paponetti will deliver another free lecture on Kateri, Dec. 8, 1:30-3:30 p.m., at the Taos Public Library, 402 Camino de la Placita in the town of Taos. For information, call (575) 737-2590.