Katherine and her sisters received a wonderful education from private tutors and traveled throughout the United States and Europe. The Drexels were financially and spiritually well-endowed.
After her stepmother suffered with terminal cancer for three years, Katharine became inspired with a passionate love for God, and took an interest in the spiritual well-being of black and native Americans.
And as one of their first acts following their father’s death, Katharine and her sisters contributed part of their inheritance to assist the St. Francis Mission of South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation.
In 1887, the Drexel sisters were given a private audience with Pope Leo XIII. They were seeking missionaries to help with the Indian missions they were financing. The Pope looked to Katharine and suggested she become a missionary.
Katharine began her six-month postulancy at the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Pittsburgh in 1889.
In 1891, Katharine made her first vows as a religious and dedicated herself to working for the American Indians and African-Americans in the Western United States.
Taking the name Mother Katharine, she established a religious congregation called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored.
From the age of 33 until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life and her fortune to this work.
In 1915, Katherine founded the first Catholic University in the United States for African-Americans, the Xavier University in New Orleans.
Mother Katharine died on March 3, 1955.
By the time of her death, she had more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country and she established 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 different states.
St. Katharine was beatified in 1988 and canonized on October 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
She is the patron saint of racial justice and philanthropists and her feast day is celebrated on March 3.
To learn more about St. Katharine Drexel: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=193