Feast of St. Katharine Drexel

Katharine was the second daughter of Philadelphia banker and philanthropist Francis Anthony Drexel and Hannah Jane Langstroth, his first wife. Langstroth died when Katharine was only five weeks old, and her father remarried to Emma Bouvier Drexel (Tarry 1958).\r\n\r\nAs a young woman, Katherine visited the Western United States with her family. On this trip, she witnessed destitution and poverty among the Native Americans. This experience inspired her to help alleviate their condition, and in 1887 she established her first school, the St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During a visit to Pope Leo XIII in Rome to request missionaries to staff the schools she was funding, the Pope suggested Katharine become a missionary herself. On 12 February 1891, in an arrangement with Archbishop James O\'Connor, Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People.\r\n\r\nFrom the age of 33 until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life and personal fortune of US $20 million to this work. Other schools quickly followed—for Native Americans west of the Mississippi River, and for the African Americans in the southern part of the United States. In 1915 she also founded Xavier Preparatory School and in 1925 Xavier University in New Orleans. St. Katharine also founded many chapels, convents, and monasteries. Blessed Sacrament Monastery in Tucson, Arizona is an example of the tasteful architecture that she advocated for religious institutions.\r\n\r\nIn 1935, Katharine suffered a severe heart attack, and for the next twenty years she lived in retirement. She died on March 3, 1955, at the age of 96 at St. Elizabeth Convent in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania. At her death there were more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country.\r\n\r\nKatharine dedicated her life and inheritance to the needs of oppressed Native Americans and Blacks in the West and Southwest US, and was a vocal advocate of racial tolerance. To address racial injustice and destitution and spread the Gospel to these groups, Katharine established a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. Because Katharine felt a universal need for education, especially among Blacks and Native Americans, she financed more than 60 missions and schools around the United States. Because of her lifelong dedication to her faith and her selfless service to the oppressed, Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 1, 2000 to become only the second recognized American-born saint. \r\n 

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