Oil Dedicated to St Katherine Drexel
The St Katherine Drexel is dedicated to the 19th century American nun. She was a heiress, philanthropist, religious sister, educator, and foundress.
Katharine Drexel’s Story
If you are very wealthy you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. However, Katherine’s mother opened her home to the poor three days each week. Also, her father spent half an hour each evening in prayer. Consequently, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that.
Born in Philadelphia in 1858, she had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, Katharine also had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death. Her life took a profound turn from then on.
Katherine’s devotion to the American Indians
Katharine had always been interested in the plight of the Indians. She was appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities.
Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas and met the Sioux leader Red Cloud. She then began her systematic aid to Indian missions.
Katharine Drexel could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of Saint Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!”
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
After three and a half years of training, Mother Drexel and her first band of nuns—Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored—opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942, she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states.
Two saints met when Mother Drexel was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans.
The last years
At 77, Mother Drexel suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations, and meditations. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000. The 2 miracles required for her canonization both involved women who had serious ear problems being cured.