March 3, 2008

Katharine Drexel

March 3, 1955, Katharine Drexel died. In 2000 she became the second American-born woman to be canonized. She was born into a very wealthy Philadelphia family. Katharine had an excellent education and traveled extensively with her family. (This photo I took with my camera is out of my book of saints. All other photos are her as a nun.)

She started over 60 schools throughout the United States including Xavier University in 1925 in New Orleans, the first university for blacks. The first school she started was in Sante Fe, New Mexico, for Indian kids. I googled her and usually wikipedia and a catholic site about her would be on the first page, but four pages are full of schools and libraries and foundations named after her.

So what occurred in her life that seems to have influenced so much good? First, her mother opened their home three days a week to the poor. And too, her father spent a half hour in prayer every evening. She visited Pope Leo XIII in Rome and asked for missionaries to the US West's Indians. He looked at her and asked, "Why don't you become a missionary?"

In 1891 Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored. Attuned to the Holy Spirit she joyously facilitated advances for social justice. Traveling and speaking, United State churches became aware of the grave domestic need among Native Americans and Afro-Americans. She hoped to change racial attitudes in the United States.

At the age of 77 she had a heart attack. Her activity shifted, spending the last almost 20 years of her life in intensive prayer.

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