Kateri Tekakwitha, the "Lily of the Mohawks," this Sunday will become the first North American Indian to achieve beatification, a major step toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Tekakwitha, and Indian maiden, and four others will be honored by Pope John Paul II at a Vatican ceremony that President Carter and his wife are scheduled to attend along with a delegation of American Indian priests and nuns.

Ordinarly, Tekakwitha and the others would not have met the traditional criteria for beatification, but the pope has waived some of the requirements in order to speed up the promotions of modern-day saints with whom 20th century Catholics can identify more closely.

Unlike his predecessors, the pope is looking for a more diverse selection of diocesan priests and lay persons from outside Europe to be saints. And he has waived the requirement that there be documented evidence that candidates performed three miracles, usually the healing of the hopelessly sick.

Under his new guidelines, the pontiff stresses personal holiness and practicing ordinary Christian principles in a heroic manner.

Beatification is the second step toward canonization or sainthood. In the first step, the pope declares the individual "venerable." After beatification, the person assumes the title, "Blessed."

In the past the step from beatification to full sainthood has taken as long as hundreds of years. But Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first native American saint, was canonized in 1975, 12 years after her beatification.

Tekakwitha, born in 1656 to an Ironquois tribal chief and a Christian Algonquin mother in Ossenenon, N.Y., near Albany, displayed these virtues, according to church records.

Plagued by poor health since a childhood bout with smallpox, Tekakwitha was first exposed to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries.

Fearing family and tribal harassment, she never sought baptism until she was 20. After her conversion, her refusals to marry and to work on the sabbath, subjected here to persecution in her village.

A year later, Tekakwitha and several other Christians escaped the persecution by fleeing to Sault St. Louis, a Jesuit mission in Canada. It was there she spent the final years of her life suffering from a recurrence of smallpox and self-inflicted penances of fasting, and self-flagallation. She died 300 years ago at the age of 24.

Her body is enshrined at Caughnawaga, now a popular pilgrimage site near Montreal for many of the 250,000 Catholic American Indians. In the past decade, she has become known in the United States as the patroness of ecology.

The movement for her canonization began in 1883, at a meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore and for the past 40 years news accounts have predicted her beatification "any day."

Under the pontiff's new definition of saintliness, Tom Dooley, the physician who died while operating hospitals for the indigent in Indochina, and Bishop Stefan Baraga, a missionary to the American Indians of Michigan, are expected to be considered for beatification and sainthood.