Saint Katherine Drexel (1858-1955)
Born and raised in the American aristocracy, she left it all to minister to the marginalized. Her father was an international banker, residing in Philadelphia. Her mother died while Katherine was just an infant, so she was raised by her loving step-mother. Nursing her step-mother through a three year terminal illness, Katherine discovered even their great wealth did not make one immune to pain and death. Through her travels and education, Katherine became invested in aiding the plight of the First Nations and African Americans. During an audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to send more missionaries to aid in the Church’s outreach to the First Nations and African Americans. The Pope’s reply radically shocked her world, “Why not you?” And so that is what she did. Katherine abandoned her wealth and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to educate and minister to the First Nations and African Americans. This caused quite a stir in society too, as newspapers ran headlines “Gives Up Seven Million!” Not all appreciated the work she was doing. Segregasists harassed her, a school was burnt down, and another school had its windows smashed. In Beaumont, Texas, they were threatened by the KKK if they did not close their chapel within a week. Within a few days, a violent storm arose that destroyed the KKK’s local headquarters. In New Orleans, Katherine established Xavier University to provide higher education to African Americans. After suffering a heart attack at age 77, Katherine’s mission took a new direction, as she spent the remaining nineteen years of her life dedicated to prayer.
Ever-loving God, you called St. Katherine Drexel to teach the message of the Gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to the African American and Native American peoples. By her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and oppressed, and keep us undivided in love in the eucharistic community of your Church.
St. Katherine Drexel, pray for us.