St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955)
Feast Day: March 3
Canonization: October 1, 2000
St. Katharine Drexel was an American heiress and philanthropist who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and donated her $20 million fortune to meet the spiritual and material needs of black and Native American people.
She was born Katharine Mary Drexel in Philadelphia, second child of wealthy investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel. Their devout Catholic family opened its doors to the poor several times weekly, distributing food, clothing, and rental assistance.
When her stepmother died from cancer, Katharine’s life took a profound turn, seeing how money could not insulate from pain and death.
While on a European tour, Katharine met Pope Leo XIII, who suggested she become a missionary. She entered religious life in 1889, a decision that shocked Philadelphia high society. In 1891 she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, dedicating her work and inheritance to establishing missions and schools across the U.S. for black and Native American people. In 1925, she founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the only historically black Catholic college in the U.S. Pope St. John Paul II canonized her in 2000.