About Saint Katharine
Drexel Essay Contest
Our Drexel Essay Contest takes place each fall. A $1,000 college scholarship and a $500 high school scholarship will be awarded to two Saint Katharine Drexel members on the basis of their essay. Completed application, essay, and letter of reference must be returned to Saint Katharine Drexel Scholarship Committee by 15 January 2023. For more information, you may contact the Finance Director, Pat O’Connor at Pat.OConnor@saintdrexel.org.
Katharine Mary Drexel was born Catherine Mary Drexel in Philadelphia on November 26, 1858. Catherine was raised in a loving family that set a living example of selfless giving. At the age of twelve, she spent two afternoons a week helping her mother in service to the poor. The family also founded a Sunday school for neighbors and employees.
When Catherine was 21, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Catherine nursed her through three years of intense suffering. It was during this time that the thought of religious life came to her constantly and forcibly. She sought counsel from Bishop James O’Connor who advised her to pray and wait. In 1885, her father died. Catherine and her sisters were, during their lifetimes, beneficiaries of Mr. Drexel’s estate.
Through the great Indian missionary, Monsignor Joseph Stephan, she became acquainted with the sufferings of the American Indians. With her two sisters, she visited the reservations to see conditions and needs. She began to build schools, supplying food, clothing, furnishings, and salaries for teachers. She also found priests to care for the spiritual needs of the people. As she became aware of the suffering of the Black people from the South and East, she extended her charity to them. Throughout her lifetime, she encouraged and financially supported missions throughout this country and abroad.
In 1889, after seeking advice from her spiritual director, Bishop O’Connor, she decided to enter into religious life. On February 12, 1891, Sr. Mary Katharine professed her vows as the first Sister of the Blessed Sacrament with 13 companions. The burden of administration and guidance of her congregation in the Eucharistic spirit, the total gift of self, rested on her for forty-four years.
Throughout her life, her interest and love for the missions deepened. Missionary work began with a boarding school for Black children and then one among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and St. Michael’s School on the Navajo Indian Reservation. As years passed many more were opened. Sr. Mary Katharine died on March 3rd, 1955.
The Cause for Canonization was opened by John Cardinal Krol in 1964 and came full circle with the canonization of Saint Katharine Drexel by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.
In the opinion of her contemporaries, she was truly saintly. It was their belief that she was singled out by God’s grace. She was a source of inspiration, a model for imitation.
Saint Katharine Drexel parish mission statement is very closely aligned with Saint Katharine Drexel and her life. She was a person that ‘formed loving disciples’ and ‘gave selflessly in the realization of the Kingdom of God’.
News of Saint Katharine in 2018
Saint Katharine Drexel’s tomb to be moved to Philadelphia cathedral
PHILADELPHIA — The remains of Saint Katharine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, will be transferred from the crypt under the chapel of Saint Elizabeth Convent, the congregation’s Bensalem motherhouse, in the coming weeks to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The transfer is precipitated by the decision of the sisters to sell the property because of the declining numbers of the order.
Saint Katharine was born Catherine Mary Drexel Nov. 26, 1858, the second child of wealthy investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel and Elizabeth Langstroth Drexel. Her mother died almost immediately after her birth, and she and her older sister, Elizabeth (Smith), were raised by their loving stepmother, Emma Bouvier Drexel, along with a younger sister of that marriage, Louise (Morrell).
Deeply religious, Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891 with the specific ministry of service to the two most persecuted races in American society — the “Indians and Colored People,” the common terms for Native American and African-American people in that era. Saint Katharine died March 3, 1955, at age 97. She was canonized in 2000 with March 3 as her feast day.
“Saint Katharine’s message is as relevant today as it was 125 years ago,” said Sister Donna Breslin, the president of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. “She was a contemporary saint and we continue to pray to her for an end to racism and deeply rooted prejudices.”
The new location for Saint Katharine’s tomb will be on the left rear of the cathedral, next to the Drexel altar, which was given to the cathedral in the late 19th century by Saint Katharine and her sisters to honor Francis Drexel and Emma Bouvier Drexel. It is the only altar in the cathedral that memorializes members of the laity.
The tomb itself will look virtually the same as it looked at Saint Elizabeth Convent. The focus will be the stone sarcophagus that has contained Saint Katharine’s coffin since her entombment.
Above it will be the same image from the shrine that depicts three angels in adoration before a monstrance, a symbol of the Eucharist, because of St. Katharine’s great devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
In her lifetime, Mother Katharine’s only desire was to be buried in the convent cemetery alongside the pioneer sisters who had preceded her in death. During her years of quiet retirement before her death, the leadership of the congregation decided she should be entombed in a crypt shrine, and this was prepared with the permission of Cardinal Dennis Dougherty.
That her remains should now come to the cathedral is appropriate. Although it was not technically their parish, the Drexel family often worshipped there, and her father was a generous donor to its construction (1846-1864).
At her death, Mother Katharine’s funeral was celebrated in the cathedral. At that time Bishop Joseph McShea, who preached at her funeral Mass, said, “I think she was a saint. I am convinced she was a saint and have no knowledge of any dedicated woman, no personal knowledge, that would exceed her in sanctity.”
For many years, the cathedral was the site of an annual memorial Mass long before her 2000 canonization. While the new tomb for Saint Katharine will be available for veneration and prayer by the faithful shortly after it is installed, a formal Mass of dedication will be celebrated Nov. 18 by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Saint Katharine Drexel Prayer
Everloving God, You called Saint Katharine Drexel to teach the message of the Gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to the Black and Native American Peoples.
By her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and oppressed.
Draw us all into the Eucharistic community of your Church, that we may be one in you.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
As Parishioners, we are encouraged to recite daily the prayer for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who continue the ministry begun by St. Katharine Drexel and, whenever possible, to support the works of the Sisters.
Saint Katharine’s Order
The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1891 and have devoted themselves to share the Gospel message with the poor, especially among the Black and Native American peoples and to challenge the deeply rooted injustice in the world today. Below you will find information about the order and their ministries.
Saint Katharine’s Circle (Quarterly Newsletter)
Volume 1, #4 November 2014 (our parish is highlighted!)
Handy Links and Resources
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS)