During our early March 2020 trip to Santa Fe, we walked from the Plaza to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (more commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral). One of the things we saw at the Cathedral was the 7 and 1/2-foot-tall statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.
I grew up Catholic, so I had heard of Kateri Tekakwitha before viewing the statute in Santa Fe. For everyone who doesn’t know, she was the first Native American canonized as a saint. According to Catholic Online,
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. She was born in 1656, in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon [in what is now central New York state]…
The website says her mother was Algonquin and her father was Mohawk and gives more details about her religious life.
At age 19, Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ. Her decision was very unpopular [among her community]…to avoid persecution, she traveled to a Christian native community south of Montreal.
Kateri was very devout and was known for her steadfast devotion…just five years after her conversion to Catholicism, she became ill and passed away at age 24, on April 17, 1680.
Her name, Kateri, is the Mohawk form of Catherine, which she took from St. Catherine of Siena.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012. She is the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans.
Her feastday is July 14.
Wikipedia tells us the bronze statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in front of Saint Francis Cathedral was created by
Estella Loretto, a sculptor from the nearby Jemez Pueblo, and installed in August 2003. A plaque noting Kateri’s canonization was added in October 2012.
According the to the sculptor’s website,
Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting. She is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today…She has studied and trained with mentors including her mother, her grandmother, and most notably with Native American sculptor Allen Houser-Haozous.
Estella was commissioned by Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan to create a monumental bronze statue of Saint Kateri, which has welcomed visitors at the entrance to Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM, since 2003.
The 2012 article “Long Journey to Sainthood” by Staci Matlock in the Santa Fe New Mexican explains the look of Loretto’s Kateri sculpture.
While other statues and paintings of Kateri show her in traditional Mohawk dress with two braids, Loretto envisioned her more in Pueblo style. In her statue, Kateri has loose flowing hair, kind eyes and is holding four feathers with a rosary. “She’s in Pueblo country,” Loretto said when the statue was unveiled in 2003. “I’m an artist. I have to do her the way she comes to me.”
I’d often wondered why this station of Saint Kateri looked so different from other images I’d seen of her. Now I know!
I enjoyed visiting this statue and taking some photos of it. I hope if you ever travel to Santa Fe, you too can spend some time here.
I took the photos in this post.