Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha with Pope Benedict XVI
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Lily of the Mohawks
1656 – 1680

Catholics Matter

Marlene McCauleyAfter her 4-year-old son Peter was healed of a profound hearing loss, Marlene McCauley became a woman on a mission. She’s been living that mission for the last 40 years, spreading devotion to soon-to-be-canonized Kateri Tekakwitha.

Jesuit Father Francis Weiser, a former professor of McCauley’s, was visiting the family back in the 1970s and told them to ask for Kateri’s intercession. Peter was suffering from a 65 percent hearing loss and the surgery doctors recommended didn’t offer a guaranteed cure. “We’ll ask Kateri,” Fr. Weiser told McCauley. “She leaves no prayer unanswered.”

When Peter’s hearing was restored, Fr. Weiser told Marlene she now had a responsibility to tell others about the “Lily of the Mohawks.” And tell them she has.

She’s written three books on the 17th century convert to the faith, the first Native American woman ever to be canonized. McCauley has also taken her husband and six children around the world, performing puppet shows about the life and faith of Kateri. One of the more memorable performances was at the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, attended by then-Cardinal Wojtyla.

At 42, she had just given birth to her youngest child. Representatives of Planned Parenthood visited her in the hospital, telling her she shouldn’t have any more children.

“I took their papers and ripped them up and threw them on the floor,” McCauley said. “I told them, ‘We’re doing a show in Philadelphia and we’re leaving tomorrow and we’re taking the baby with us. This baby is going to be the main star in the show.'”

And just like that, two-day old Joseph appeared in the production as Baby Kateri, packed into a Native American child carrier.

As the McCauley children grew, so did their roles in the family apostolate.

“The children all worked as a team,” McCauley said. “Some of them made puppets, some made costumes, some did the sound system. some did writing — each one had something to do.”

McCauley, devoted to daily Mass and the Eucharist, is also a gifted painter and sculptor. One of her paintings of Kateri was displayed in churches around the United States and is now permanently housed at the Mission of St. Francis Xavier in Kahnawake where Kateri’s body lies.

In the late 70s, she and her hushand, Alan, spread devotion to Kateri on Native American reservations in Arizona, becoming godparents to a Navajo baby girl named Kateri. At St. Francis Xavier Parish, they worked to have a statue of Kateri placed in the Church. The statue’s dedication took place at a packed Mass where then-Bishop James S. Rausch announced that Kateri was to be beatified.

McCauley recently spoke at the national Tekakwitha conference in Albany, NY. She was present at Kateri’s beatification, and will travel to Rome next month for her canonization.

Faith in a nutshell:

When God wants something, He makes a spiritual landscape. If you look at the 17th century, the time when Kateri was alive…the Sacred Heart was appearing to St. Margaret Mary, begging her to tell the world how much He loves us. And little Kateri was praying, burning with love for Jesus and the cross and the holy Eucharist and making amazing sacrifices that were painful in order to identify with Jesus.

What she loves about being catholic:

It’s truth. Jesus, God, the Trinity — every bit of it is objective truth and we are Catholic because of the Eucharist. Jesus didn’t abandon us — he gave us Himself in the Holy Eucharist. If we could share this with everyone — that Jesus is there — what a gift to be united with Him and to have His heart within us.

Take away:

McCauley hand-wrote one of her books at a Phoenix restaurant. It took her years, and a man there offered to type it up on his computer. “He became a Catholic,” McCauley said. “God puts us where we should be at the right time. It’s the Holy Spirit that works.”

St. Francis Xavier

Promoting devotion to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

I can never say no [to requests for performances] because I am a child at heart. I love puppets. It’s a way of bringing joy and happiness to people and to bring Catholicism in its great glory. We absolutely love our faith and we love to share it.

Joyce Corone, “Catholics Matter: Marlene McCauley,” The Catholic Sun, September 20, 2012, 4