Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
Sunday, Oct. 21, is a day to celebrate St. Kateri.
Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman who lived in the 1600s, is being canonized in Rome as the first Native-American saint in the United States.
In Steubenville, Ohio, Kateri Lang, who is the same age as her namesake was at her death, 24, is giving thanks for the new saint and delighted to share her name.
Lang is a 2012 graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She works for the university and is also the school’s diving coach.
“I’m so excited now she is named a saint,” Lang said with obvious joy.
How did she come to have this name? When her mother was a teenager, she met a little girl named Kateri.
“My mother loved it, thought it was really beautiful, and then found out more about it,” Lang said. “She did research on Blessed Kateri and said if she ever had a little girl that’s what she would name her.”
“She took great pride in having named me that,” Lang added. “Especially in a Catholic community, I definitely have a pride in it."
Her name is often a means to evangelize: "I do talk about it a lot. It’s a great way or great segue to start a conversation about the Church and the faith."
Many times people she meets will ask her to repeat her name.
They then often say: "Oh, that’s a beautiful name. Where did your parents come up with that?"
“I tell them it’s a Catholic saint,” Lang said with a smile radiating in her voice. “Most often they ask: ‘Where was she from, and what did she do?’
“I share how we revere her and about the life she led. It’s great to share and say this is why we respect her and ask for her intercession. And I talk about the saints and why we revere them, too.”
“I try always to pipe in and mention the fact that the saint I’m named after was an advocate of purity and led a pure life,” Lang explained. “And, as a young woman, I strive to live the life she led, to live in a pure way like she did. And to be humble.”
What's the reaction to this?
“People — especially the people you meet in the coffee shops — are taken aback by that,” Lang reflected. “They have a hard time understanding that I as a young woman would respect that lifestyle and try to live that out as well.”
Even though St. Kateri herself ran into constant roadblocks among her native people because of her conversion to Christianity, her faith remained strong and unwavering. Whether others listened or not, her very presence became a witness to her beliefs.
Today, with her own "name" experiences, Lang concludes: “I think it’s a beautiful way to evangelize.”
Surely so does her patron, St. Kateri, "the Lily of the Mohawks."
St. Kateri, pray for us!