By Melarie Mantanona
St. Katharine Drexel was born on Nov. 26, 1858 into a famous and wealthy family. Five weeks after she was born, her mom died and her father remarried. She had a very financially secure upbringing and her parents were very devout practicing Catholics.
Her family traveled often across the United States and Europe, prayed fervently, and gave alms to the poor habitually. Her parents were true models of faith and the family lived lives that were established on the foundation of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
It wasn’t until she witnessed her stepmom afflicted with pain from terminal cancer for three years did she realize that no sum of money could shield them from suffering. After this revelation, she became impassioned with a deep love for God and neighbor. She felt an intense connection to those who were of African American and Native American descent.
When her father passed away, Katharine and her sisters inherited a large sum of money. They continued to give money to religious orders and missions. In 1887, Katharine and her sisters were granted the opportunity to attend a private audience with Pope Leo XIII.
When the pope found out that they were looking for missionaries to help with one of the missions they sponsored, the pope looked directly to Katharine and told her that she should be a missionary.
Two years later, she started postulancy with the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Pittsburgh and later made her first vows as a religious. She worked tirelessly for those around her especially those who were Native American and African American.
She dedicated the rest of her life to working for others. She set up a religious congregation called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for African American and Native American and took the name of Mother Katharine.
She played a key role in the establishment of many missions, schools, and Xavier University which is known to be the first African American Catholic University in the country.
St. Katharine Drexel is the patron saint of racial justice and philanthropists. She died on March 3, 1955 and was canonized on Oct. 1, 2000 by St. Pope John Paul II. She is the second American-born saint to be canonized and her feast day is March 3.
Let us ask St. Katharine to intercede for us that we may exemplify the love of God to our neighbors.
Information and photo from http://www.catholic.org/saints