St. Katharine Drexel

Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist's Narrative:
St. Katharine’s legacy was her effort to establish educational facilities for African and Native Americans throughout the United States. She utilized the resources left to her by her Father, Francis Drexel. She was born into one of Philadelphia’s, as well as the United States richest families in 1858. Her parents and step-mother Emma taught her by example that her blessings should be shared with others. Her mother, Hannah, died from complications during Katharine’s birth. She suffered the death of her father and step-mom before age 20. Health problems followed her most of her life, and she was confined by these to the motherhouse her last 20 years. Her own heavy burdens helped her see loads others were carrying. She was moved to act.

She sought an audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1887, and in response to her request for missionaries, he asked why she did not become one. She responded by founding an order of religious women, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, to serve in this mission.

March 3, 2005 was the 50th anniversary of her death. This painting is offered to the motherhouse in Philadelphia, where her body rests in memorial of this anniversary. It is a gift in her honor from St. Michaels Indian School, founded by her in 1902 on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. In this depiction, she takes the center-spot in a traditional Navajo dry (sand) painting of Holy Girl. Holy Girl is in this case shown as St. Katharine, in homage to her holiness and her love of the Navajo people. In this dry painting, Talking God, to her right, and xactc'e'oyan, to her left, stand in protection of her. Eagle feathers adorn their head, and they carry talking prayer sticks. They represent the span of pre-dawn to sunset. Their wish is to bring good and healing. This is my wish for the Navajo people and for the teachers following in this saint’s call to act.

Her feast day is March 3.


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