FATHERS CHAUCHETIÈRE AND CHOLENEC MAY HAVE HOPED THAT THEIR HAGIOGRAPHIC efforts would lead to Catherine taking her place in the pantheon of official Catholic saints, but for two centuries there was no serious effort to secure papal canonization. Canonizations were, in fact, extremely rare in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; only thirty-two new saints were named between 1540 and 1770, the majority of these Italian or Spanish.1 More than verified miracles were required. It took an extended and hugely expensive campaign to bring these to the attention of the Vatican, and so it is hardly surprising that the Mohawk virgin remained an unofficial cult figure. As such, she was remembered in the Kahnawake/Montreal region, while occasional reeditions of her life story brought her to the attention of succeeding generations of European Catholic readers. Then, toward the end of the nineteenth century, Tekakwitha suddenly became known in the United States, and with her chariot hitched to the powerful engines of American nationalism, papal recognition began to seem a real possibility.
In 1884, the Catholic bishops of the United States were preparing to meet at Baltimore for a great plenary council that would reorganize and reinvigorate the American church. One of their goals was to solidify the church’s position in a predominantly Protestant society with pronounced anti-Papist traditions. Waves of immigration from Ireland, Italy, French Canada, and other countries had bolstered the Catholic population enormously but had done nothing to allay the suspicions of old-stock Americans, quite the reverse. This