Saint Katherine Drexel (1858-1955)
Feast day: March 3
Beatified November 20, 1988
Canonized October 1, 2000 by Pope Saint John Paul
Patron saint of: philanthropists and racial justice.
Saint Katherine Drexel, born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia, PA. She is the second canonized saint born in the U.S., just after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Growing up, Saint Katherine Drexel had the ability to study and learn, though always feeling called to serve in faith.
An impact and one reason that led her to seek a spiritual director, was the long suffering from cancer, her mother experienced. Her long term Spiritual Director was Father James O’Conner and also experienced the dedication to prayer from her father each night for 30 minutes.
One of the first acts of charity she and her sisters performed was to donate a portion of their wealth to St. Francis Mission of South Dakota’s Rose Bud Reservation. This was possibly left over desire from a family trip to the western states where she wanted to help the Native Americans they saw, who needed help.
While touring in Europe, she and her sisters had a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, who recommended her to become a missionary. Saint Katherine took her first religious vows on February 12, 1891. She would dedicate the remainder of her life working for American Indian and African Americans, until her death in 1955.
She dedicated all of her inheritance to found a number of primary schools and Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic African American University. In addition to building the first mission schools for Native American children in Santa Fe. In addition to finding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891. They are still active today, continuing on Saint Katherine Drexel’s devotion to the Eucharist.
There are many saints and spiritual people who, like Saint Katherine Drexel, Saint Francis, The Buddha and others who founded communities and were driven to aid the poor, were first born into financial comfort. For example, The Buddha, much like Saint Katherine Drexel, left the comforts of their wealth behind to focus on their spiritual life.
These individuals had already experienced life that included all they needed, while still knowing it did not bring them happiness. They each experienced suffering of sadness or something that forced them to ask those spiritually deepening questions. For Saint Katherine Drexel, the question was asking how she could be of assistance to Native Americans and African Americans, during a time of racial divide and lack of understanding.
Saint Katherine Drexel donated all of her inheritance from her family, to build schools and universities and meet the needs of underserved populations. She knew that money could not bring her happiness, knowing there so many others in need around her. As a fellow saint, she cast herself out, to be one with others in need, she found happiness within divine things and not human things.
*Image with a quote some from the public domain.
*The image statue was taken by me in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.