Saint Katharine Drexel
Patron Saint of racial justice and philanthropists
Today is the optional memorial of Saint Katharine Drexel. Born to a wealthy and deeply religious Catholic family in Philadelphia three years before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1858, Katharine’s parents instilled in her the understanding that their wealth was loaned to them by God and was to be shared with others.
On a trip with her parents to the Southwest, Katharine witnessed the poverty of the Native Americans prompting her to establish Saint Catherine (named after Saint Catherine of Siena) Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1887 which remained open until 1998.
Needing more missionaries to staff the schools she was opening and financing throughout the south, Katharine went to Pope Leo XIII in Rome for help. He suggested she become a missionary. After prayerful consideration she professed her first vows at the age of 33, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, an order devoted not only to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but to the active care of African-Americans and Native Americans.
St. Katharine dedicated her life and personal fortune of $20 million to supporting and establishing many schools, including Xavier University in New Orleans. She died March 3, 1955, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II October 1, 2000 becoming the second recognized American born saint.