ST. ISAAC JOGUES, (1607-46), the patron saint of our parish, was a French Jesuit priest who chose to work with the Huron Indians. Soon after his arrival in upper state New York, he became ill and was blamed for starting an epidemic. In time, relations improved and for several years he successfully ministered to the native Americans. In 1642 while traveling to Quebec, he was captured by Mohawk Indians, enslaved at their village, tortured, and mutilated.
During his captivity he was allowed to mingle with the villagers. It is claimed that he baptized a number of dying children, constituting the first baptisms in the state of New York.
Dutch settlers helped him to escape and return to France. In 1646 he returned to New York as an ambassador to the Mohawks. Soon after concluding a treaty, he was captured by a band of hostile Mohawks because of their superstitions attributing the illness in the village to the evil they thought he left with them. He was given his freedom, only to be murdered (near the site of the present town of Auriesville, New York) by a small group of Mohawks.
He was canonized in 1930. The Feast of St. Isaac Jogues is celebrated October 19.
KATERI TEKAKWITHA, (1656-1680) known as Lily of the Mohawks because of her purity and faithful life, was born in 1656. Her father was a Mohawk chief, and her mother was a Christian from the Algonquin people who lived near Auriesville, New York. A smallpox epidemic left her orphaned, partially blind, and scarred. She was raised by her uncle’s family in an Iroquois village which was open to Jesuit missionaries. Against her family’s wishes, she began religious instruction, was baptized a Catholic on Easter 1676, and was given the name “Katherine” or “Kateri.”
Enduring ridicule and accusations, Kateri devoutly practiced her faith and longed to move to a native American Catholic mission village, but her uncle refused. Finally in 1677 she escaped and fled 200 miles to reach the mission. She received her First Communion that year and lived a life of great faith and virtue until she died in 1680 at the age of 24.
Kateri was declared venerable, or worthy of honor, in 1943. In 1980 she was declared Blessed, which is the last step before canonization as a saint.