Although St. Katharine Drexel was born into a wealthy Philadelphian family, she was far from proud or uncharitable. She, and her family, were devoted to the Lord and their neighbors…ALL of their neighbors.
A Holy Family
Katharine was born in 1858 in Philadelphia and her mother died just five weeks after she was born (her father did remarry later). The Drexels were a wealthy family and the Drexel children were privileged to have a great education and many great experiences, such as traveling throughout the United States. However, the Drexels were also a very devout family and truly lived their faith. Katharine’s parents modeled a life of prayer, care for the poor, and the practice of the works of mercy (both corporal and spiritual!).
Katharine, too, was devout from a young age and was very concerned with loving God and loving her neighbor. While visiting the western United States with her family, she saw the plight of the Native Americans, whom she desired to help.
Inheritance for the Native Americans
After her father died, Katharine and her two sisters were left millions of dollars in an inheritance (her father also gave some to charities). Katharine and her sisters donated some of the money to help a Catholic mission on a South Dakota Native American reservation. However, Katharine realized the mission to help the Native Americans needed more than money.
After talking to her spiritual director (and after an audience with Pope Leo XIII), she decided to give her inheritance and her life to God to help Native and African Americans. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh in 1889 and made her first vows in 1891.
Her Own Order & Founding Missions
Katharine worked in the western United States, ministering to Native and African Americans, and she began a religious order called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. They founded many missions and boarding schools in several of the western and south-western states, and Katharine financed some of the mission religious orders, and the printing of a Catechism for Navajo children in 1910. She also founded Xavier University in New Orleans, which was the first Catholic university in the U.S.A. for African Americans.
Katharine died in 1955, 20 years after retiring from her work (because of a heart attack), and after her order had more than 500 sisters who taught in more than 60 schools and 50 missions for Native Americans. She was canonized in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II and her feast day is March 3.
Why a Tepee?
St. Katharine was born into great wealth and prestige in Philadelphia in the mid-19th century. However, her parents modeled a holy life devoted to the poor and sick, and she, after reading about the plight of Native Americans, gave up her wealth to found Catholic schools and mission centers in 16 states. She made her home among the Native Americans, founded her own religious order, and founded Xavier University.
Who would be friends with St. Katharine Drexel?
- Religious sisters
- Those with strong devotion to the works of mercy
- The wealthy
- Those with strong, religious families (the Drexels were amazing!)
- Native Americans
- African or Black Americans
- Citizens of the western USA
- Those seeking a spiritual director (she had a great one!)
If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them. Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.St. Katharine Drexel
Check out St. Katharine’s medal in our shop and have a daily reminder of the works of mercy.