Tekakwitha was born in 1656 of a Christian Catholic Algonquin mother and a traditional Mohawk Chief in a village called Ossernenon along the Mohawk River.
A smallpox epidemic swept through the Mohawk village and claimed the lives of Tekakwitha's parents and baby brother. She survived the disease but it left her eyesight impaired and her body scarred. It also left her physically weak for the rest of her life. Orphaned at age 4, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle.
In 1670, St. Peter's Mission was established in Caughnawaga (now Fonda, New York). Four years later, Father James de Lamberville became responsible for the new mission. Tekakwitha met Father de Lamberville and expressed her desire for baptism. On April 5, 1676 she was baptized and was given the name Catherine 'Kateri in Mohawk.'
In August, 1677, Kateri was encouraged and assisted to leave her Mohawk village and live at Sault St. Louis, St. Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal Canada. After a long and strenuous trip, she arrived at the Sault with the help of friends. Finally, she would be able to practice her Christian ways with greater openness and freedom.
On Christmas Day, 1677, Kateri received her first Holy Communion. On March 25, 1679, Kateri pronounced her vow of perpetual virginity. Her life was devoted to teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and aged until she became very frail and weak.
On April 17, 1680, she died at the age of 24. Her last words were: "Iesos konoronkwa," (Jesus, I love you.) A few minutes after her death, those around her bedside witnessed the ugly scars on her face suddenly disappear.