Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Memorial Feast: Saint Katharine Drexel (1858-+1955)—Religious, Patron Saint of Philanthropy and Racial Justice
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6, & Luke 9:22-25
Today is the feast day of Saint Katharine Drexel. Born in 1858 into a wealthy, deeply religious Catholic family, she was instilled with a sense of responsibility for the poor at a young age. The Drexel's would open their home to those in need, distributing medicine, clothing, blankets, and other necessities three times a week. As she got older, her travels with her family to the western United States introduced her to the poverty of Native Americans.
In her late 20's, Katharine's father and stepmother died, leaving her and her sisters a vast fortune. She decided to use her inheritance for those in need by creating schools and churches for the underserved African Americans and Native Americans. In 1887 when she was granted a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked the Church to send her missionaries to support her work. Instead, the pope suggested that she become a missionary herself.
Two years afterward, Katharine committed herself fully to her work and the Church. She became a novice with the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, PA, and, in 1891, took her final vows. She established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who dedicated themselves to supporting Native Americans and African Americans and spent the remainder of her life focused on social activism.
At the time of her death in 1955, at the age of 96, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament had established forty-nine elementary schools and twelve high schools. They founded Xavier University in Louisiana, the first Catholic University in the United States for African Americans, and grew their religious community to five hundred members in fifty-one convents.
Saint Katharine Drexel was beatified in 1988, and Pope John Paul II canonized her in 2000. Two miracles are attributed to her, with the Church giving her credit for curing the deafness of two children, one in 1988 and the other in 2000. She is the second American-born saint and is the patron saint of racial justice and philanthropists. Her sacred remains are located in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, PA, which is the city of her birth.
Question of the Day: Using the inspiration of Saint Katharine, how do you aid the underserved and discriminated communities?
Prayer: "God, let Saint Katharine never cease commending us to Your kindness. By imitating her charity and prudence may we succeed in keeping Your teachings and preserving good morals. Amen." (Lives of the Saints, Illustrated)