A life-size bronze statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, soon to become the first Native American saint in the U.S., will be dedicated today at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine.

The event will begin with a Mass at 4 p.m. followed by an outdoors procession to the statue at 5:15 p.m.

After the dedication, a reception featuring Native American food is scheduled in the Fatima Shrine Cafeteria.

Kateri, a convert to Christianity, was born in 1656, the daughter of an Algonquin mother and Mohawk chief in the Village of Canaouaga (now Auriesville) in upstate New York. When she was 4 years old, her parents and brother died of smallpox and while Kateri survived the disease, her face was badly scarred and her eyesight impaired.

Later her foster parents paired her with a young boy who they expected she would marry but she wanted instead to dedicate her life to God.

Scorned by villagers for joining the Catholic Church, she fled to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, a settlement of Christian Indians in Canada, and worked with the elderly and the sick.

She died on April 17, 1680, shortly before her 24th birthday and was buried in Kahnawake, Que.

Subsequently, a number of healing miracles were attributed to Kateri, according to church officials.

Monsignor Paul Lenz, formerly the head of the Black and Indian Catholic Mission Office, will be the celebrant and homilist for the Mass.

The statue was donated by the Gonzales family of the Tuscarora Reservation, in honor of their parents, Thomas and Lucinda Reed and Ruben and Carmelita Gonzales.

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