Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint

Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint

Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint

Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint

Synopsis

On October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) to be a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Only the second American-born Catholic saint in history, Drexel founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891 and established more than sixty Blessed Sacrament missions and schools.

In this biography Cheryl Hughes chronicles the remarkable life of St. Katharine Drexel, exploring what drove her to turn away from her family's wealth and become a missionary nun who served some of the most underprivileged and marginalized people of her time. Through her inspiration and effort "Mother" Katharine improved the lives of untold numbers of Native Americans and African Americans, overcoming open hostility to her work from various quarters, including the Ku Klux Klan. Her saintly legacy lives on today.

Excerpt

On October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul ii proclaimed Katharine Drexel a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She became the second American-born saint of the Catholic Church and its answer to the relative social, political, and economic disadvantages of African American and Native American people. Katharine Drexel lived a life of virtue, of even the heroic virtue required for sainthood, and through her inspiration and effort she improved the lives of untold numbers of Native Americans and African Americans; her life, work, and example are appropriate mirrors for Catholic Christians at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Everyone’s life is a mystery of sorts. My project with St. Katharine Drexel was to uncover, as much as possible, her mystery, those personal, intellectual, and religious motivations that helped her to become a saint. Not all philanthropists or workers in the field of social justice are considered saints, but Katharine became a saint, in her own terms and in her own time, and her canonization illuminates her importance as saintly exemplar early in this third millennium. I will explore what I believe Pope John Paul ii wished to teach by canonizing this particular American woman. It will become apparent that she was a worthy candidate for sainthood, but many worthy people never become saints of the Church. John Paul ii was able to look at Katharine and see a woman who was necessary to his pastoral project, particularly in what he referred to as the superdeveloped countries, like the United States.

1. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American saint. the founder of the American Sisters of Charity was canonized in 1975. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, an AlgonquinMohawk Native American, was canonized in 2012.

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