When Cory and Molly Howat had their firstborn child – a daughter – in 2008, there was no doubt about what name they would give to her: “Katherine Kateri Howat.”
Two family connections were behind the beautiful naming: Cory Howat’s mother, an orphan, had been raised by a community of religious sisters who prayed daily for the canonization of then-Venerable Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Native American who had also been orphaned at a young age, and who had converted to Catholicism after learning about Jesus from the Jesuit missionaries. Also, in a stroke of good fortune, Cory Howat had been born on St. Kateri’s July 14 feast day.
Now the Howat family’s devotion to St. Kateri – the first Native American to be declared a saint – has entered its third generation through the witness of 5-year-old Katherine.
In celebration of the canonization of her namesake, Katherine traveled to Rome with her father to attend St. Kateri’s Oct. 21, 2012, canonization Mass. More recently, Katherine went to her home parish of St. Clement of Rome to teach the school’s third graders about St. Kateri’s life and pass around a statue and crucifix that had been touched to a relic of St. Kateri at her canonization.
“I think we had to take four planes,” said Katherine of her trip to Rome, recalling the large banners of St. Kateri hanging from St. Peter’s Basilica.
“There were (Swiss) guards and we couldn’t get in the front, so I just sat by some nuns and I went to sleep on my dad’s lap,” said Katherine, who also visited Assisi, the zoo and a few gelato shops during her time in Italy.
Katherine said that St. Kateri, called “The Lily of the Mohawks,” can “help people be closer to Jesus.” She prays to her saint every night alongside her family.
“I pray that I’m healthy and safe,” said Katherine, adding that she and her family also ask for the prayers of the saints watching over her younger brothers: James Francis, 3; and John-Damien, eight months.
Throughout prayer time, Katherine clasps her little statue of St. Kateri.
“She’s beautiful. She’s holy,” Katherine said. “This thing makes me closer to Jesus. It looks like I’m holding Jesus.”