St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Katharine Drexel was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family. As a young woman she became aware of the suffering of Native Americans on the newly established reservations in the western part of the United States. She began using money from her inheritance to establish schools on the reservations and to send food and clothing to the people. In time she expanded her efforts to include impoverished African-Americans in the southern and eastern states.

From the time she was 21 years old, Katharine had wanted to become a religious sister. Six years later the bishop of Omaha, Nebraska, encouraged her to found a religious community to work among Native Americans and African-Americans. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and took vows as the first member in 1891. For 44 years she guided her new order, founding schools in New Mexico and Arizona, and throughout the eastern half of the country. In 1917 she founded what became Xavier University in New Orleans.

In 1935 she suffered a severe heart attack, and spent the remaining 20 years of her life in retirement and prayer. In this icon she stands beside a girl from San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. The girl is dressed for the traditional summer corn dance.

Her feast day is March 3.


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