Two keen interests came together when, in 1958, Francis MacDonald undertook to write Star of the Mohawk: one of these enthusiasms was historical research in his specialty, the Five Iroquois Nations; the other was Kateri Tekakwitha herself, an Algonquin-Mohawk maiden whom he regarded with great respect. At the time of MacDonald’s writing, Kateri had not yet been officially acknowledged as a Catholic saint, though he hoped one day she might be. More than 50 years later, on October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha. She is the first Native American to be so recognized.
After graduating from Catholic University, Francis MacDonald went on to do further studies at Boston College. Then, during a residence of four years in the Mohawk Valley, he began to acquire firsthand knowledge of the Iroquois Nations. It was through the Jesuit Fathers in Auriesville, New York, and the Franciscans at Fonda, that Macdonald gained access to the earliest records of Kateri’s life. Later, while teaching history and English at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in New York City, he was able to put that research to good use in writing Kateri’s story.
In addition to research, Mr. MacDonald enjoyed time in the outdoors, especially afternoons spent on the athletic field (as a popular track coach), which gave welcome relief to his more serious pursuits—such as writing books and teaching. Thanks to Francis MacDonald’s lively interest in the experience of the early mission work in the New World—and those first native people who responded so wholeheartedly to the Gospel message— another generation of readers may now take to heart St. Kateri’s example of undaunted courage and faithfulness as a follower of Christ.