Katharine Drexel was born in 1858 to a wealthy Philadelphia family. Her father was an international banker. Katharine’s mother would open their home up to the poor three times a week, and her father was a man of nightly prayer.
When Katharine father became terminally ill, Katharine nursed him until he passed. She realized then that money could not ensure that your loved ones would always be with you.
As a young woman, Katharine met with Pope Leo XIII to ask for more missionaries to be sent to Wyoming at the request of her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope suggested that Katharine become a missionary.
Katharine did become a missionary and advocated for Indian and African American children in America. She met with tribal leaders and brought them aid. She founded missions and black Catholic schools in 13 states . She also established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. Katharine founded Xavier University in New Orleans which was the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans.
When she was 77, Katharine suffered a heart attack. She spent the next 20 years in retirement and prayer, passing away at the age of 96. She was canonized in 2000.
Here is a quote from Katharine Drexel’s meditations:
“The patient and humble endurance of the cross—whatever nature it may be—is the highest work we have to do.” “Oh, how far I am at 84 years of age from being an image of Jesus in his sacred life on earth!”