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St. Katharine Drexel

Feast Day: March 3

Katharine Drexel was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 20, 1988 and on October 1, 2000, he canonized Katharine. She became the second woman born in the United States to be declared a saint.

Katharine Mary Drexel was born in 1858 to a very wealthy Philadelphia family. Although from a privileged background, the family had a strong commitment to helping the poor. She had a genuine love of God and neighbor and was interested in the material and spiritual well-being of black and Native Americans. Katharine began by donating money to help the poor, but she soon realized that there was a need for people to become personally involved.

She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Black and Native American peoples whose mission is to work for the betterment of those they were called to serve. Katharine, who took religious vows and the name Sister Katharine, dedicated her life and her considerable fortune (estimated at $20 million), to this work until her death in 1955. She opened her first school in New Mexico, along with several other schools west of the Mississippi for the Native Americans and in the southern part of the United States for Black Americans. She also founded Xavier University, a Catholic University for African Americans in New Orleans in 1915.

In 1935, Katharine was forced to retire to the order’s mother house in Bensalem, Pennsylvania due to health reasons. At the time of her death, more than 500 Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were teaching in the 63 schools that she founded across the country.