Anthropology museum to host Blessed Kateri performance

By Pam Barrett
Oct. 7, 2005

Wake Forest University's Museum of Anthropology will host a free, public workshop and performance titled "Vignettes of the Life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-80), Mohawk Holy Woman" at 3 p.m. Oct. 23. The monologue was written by Sarah Hassenplug and will be performed by Theresa (Terry) Steele.

The workshop will focus on contemporary Mohawk culture and spirituality. It will include an introduction by the playwright, a monologue performance, an audience discussion session, and lectures on the native spirituality of Blessed Kateri, Algonquin and Mohawk language, philosophy and culture, and native spirituality integration in churches and communities.

Kateri Tekakwitha was a young 17th-century Mohawk woman who was known for her conversion to Christianity, her courage in the face of suffering and her extraordinary holiness. When she died, witnesses reported that the pock marks she had on her face from having smallpox as a child completely disappeared and her face shone with radiance. Shortly after her death, several people also reported that Kateri appeared to them, and many healing miracles were attributed to her.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri and declared her "Blessed." Today, the patroness of peace and ecology is regarded as a guide for Roman Catholic American Indian communities to integrate the practices of the Catholic Church with traditional native spirituality. She is the first Native American woman and the first North American laywoman considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.

Playwright Sarah Hassenplug was born and raised at the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation located on the New York-Canadian border, where she gained a rich heritage of Mohawk tribal language, customs and traditions, including the stories of Blessed Kateri. For the past 32 years, Hassenplug has worked at the National Shrine of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, N.Y.

Terry Steele is an Algonquin Indian who travels throughout the United States performing Hassenplug's "The Life Story of Kateri Tekakwitha" at churches, shrines, schools and conferences. She is a board member at the Kateri National Shrine, a member of the Akwesasne Prayer Circle and a former recipient of the Blessed Kateri Award for her dedication and work at The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs.

For more information about the event, contact the museum at (336) 758-5282 or

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