In the year of our Lord 1654, a young Erie girl named Gandeaktena was captured in war and taken to live among the Oneida Iroquois. Married to a Christian Huron, the two then escaped the immorality of the Oneida village to the colony of New France. After she was baptized Catherine, they founded the mission of La Prairie, a refuge where Christian Iroquois and converts from many other nations could live their faith in peace.
This Native Catholic mission in the forests outside of Montreal attracted hundreds of devout Indians, in no small part thanks to Catherine’s charity, piety, and faith. Known as the “Good Christian”, the “Pillar of the Faith”, and the “Mother of the Poor,” she planted the spiritual garden in which the Lily of the Mohawk, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, could later grow.
Catherine Gandeaktena left this world with the reputation of sanctity on November 6th, 1673. And in this coming year of 2023, marking the 350th anniversary of her holy death, I will be delighted to tell her story.
There sometimes comes a serendipity in our lives where a mass of disparate, apparently irreconcilable, threads and interests miraculously weave together into something larger than ourselves. For me, Catherine’s story is one of those cases. In honor of this beloved and remarkable woman, I have been able to pour my love for literature, history, Native American studies, and the Catholic faith. And her life is a crucial example to us all in how to rise from the ashes of a ruined culture and build a new society with Christ at its head.
As I finish up the last few chapters and prepare the book for publication, look for excerpts from it here and on social media.
And for those who just can’t wait (or who just want to encourage me along the way) Hoquessing will be offering accounts of her life as well as prayer cards and sacramentals.
May God bless you all. Catherine Gandeaktena, pray for us!