Daughter of the extremely wealthy railroad entrepreneurs and philanthropists Francis Anthony and Emma (Bouvier) Drexel. She was taught from an early age to use her wealth for the benefit of others; her parents even opened their home to the poor several days each week. Katharine’s older sister Elizabeth founded a Pennsylvania trade school for orphans; her younger sister founded a liberal art and vocational school for poor blacks in Virginia. Katharine nursed her mother through a fatal three-year illness before setting out on her own; Emma died in 1883.
Interested in the condition of Native Americans, during an audience in 1887, Katharine asked Pope Leo XIII to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend, Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” She visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux chief, and began her systematic aid to Indian missions, eventually spending millions of the family fortune. Entered the novitiate of the sisters of Mercy. Founded the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Coloured, now known simply as the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA in 1891. Advised by Mother Frances Cabrini on getting the Order’s rule approved in Rome. She received the approval in 1913. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, 40 mission centres, 23 rural schools, 50 Indian missions, and Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first United States university for blacks. Segregationists harassed her work. Following a heart attack, she spent her last twenty years in prayer and meditation. Her shrine at the mother-house was declared a National Shrine in 2008.
Saint Katharine Drexel Novena
Ever loving 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, one God, forever and ever.
One Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be
I wish to be one who conscientiously takes part in the unfolding of God’s plans, and eventually have a glorious part in the final unfolding of time into the glory of God’s Kingdom in heaven. If we are disciples (of Jesus) we shall be happy to spend ourselves and be spent for the salvation of souls.
St. Katharine Drexel, pray for us.
Day One: EUCHARIST
The Eucharist is a never-ending sacrifice. It is the Sacrament of love, the supreme love, the act of love. Help me each moment today and always to communicate myself to You by doing Your will.
St. Katharine Drexel, lover of the Eucharist, pray for us.
Day Two: EVANGELIZATION
I looked up in wonder at God’s wonderful ways and thought how little we imagine what may be the result of listening and acting on a desire He puts into the heart. Nourish before Him great desires… May our desire be to bring Him hearts, for all are His by right, having been purchased by every drop of His blood. – St. Katharine Drexel Brief pause for reflection Brief pause for reflection.
St. Katharine Drexel, model for those who evangelize, pray for us.
Day Three: PEACE
Peacefully do at each moment what at that moment ought to be done. If we do what each moment requires, we will eventually complete God’s plan, whatever it is. We can trust God to take care of the master plan when we take care of the details.
St. Katharine Drexel, steadfast in trust, pray for us.
Day Four: SERVANT OF THE POOR
Kindness is the natural fruit of goodness of heart. He (Jesus) loved every human being as the image of God … and so all that came within range of His benevolence were treated kindly for God’s sake and their own.
St. Katharine Drexel, lover of the poor, pray for us.
Day Five: SUFFERING OF CHRIST
Often in my desire to work for others I find my hands tied, something hinders my charitable designs, some hostile influence renders me powerless. My prayers seem to avail nothing, my kind acts are rejected, I seem to do the wrong thing when I am trying to do my best. In such cases I must not grieve. I am only treading in my Master’s steps.
St. Katharine Drexel, follower of the suffering Christ, pray for us.
Day Six: THE CROSS
(Christ) may be leading me out to a cross. If so, I can have no hesitation about following Him! I must follow Him closely, so that … I shall be near Him, my Good Shepherd, Who will help me to carry it, for He still bears His Cross in each one of His children.
St. Katharine Drexel, bearer of the cross, pray for us.
Day Seven: DEVOTION TO MARY
Teach me, O my dear Mother, the lesson of sacrifice. Help me, Mother, to take from the hands of Jesus, in the spirit of humble love, devotion to my daily crosses.
St. Katharine Drexel, daughter of Mary, pray for us.
Day Eight: BUILDING FOR ETERNITY
Out of our common todays and yesterdays we are building for eternity. No thought, no work of ours ever dies. We shall meet them all again, and in the world to come shall find our gathered harvest.
St. Katharine Drexel, woman of vision, pray for us.
Day Nine: PRAYER AND WORK
The active life to be productive must have contemplation. When it (contemplation) gets to a certain height it overflows to active life and gets help and strength from the heart of God. This is the way the saints produced so much fruit, and we’re all called to be saints.
St. Katharine Drexel, model for the union of prayer and work, pray for us.
Novena Prayer To Saint Katharine Drexel
All praise and thanks to the Most Blessed Trinity, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We honor you when we acclaim all those who share your life in eternal glory, our Mother Mary, all the angels and saints.
We come before you, Father, in your Holy Spirit, as we follow the way of your Son, Jesus, to ask the heavenly aid of Saint Katharine Drexel. Her sacred relics in this Mother Church remind us that she is numbered among the Saints in heaven.
Your divine grace led Saint Katharine Drexel to give herself completely over to your service in the Church in imitation of the poor Savior, attending to the least, as a virgin foundress and a laborer for the justice of the Gospel. Her strength, virtue and fortitude came from her unwavering devotion to the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament.
Hear us now, we pray, as we bring to you our many prayers, petitions and intentions through the intercession of Saint Katharine Drexel.
Pause for the silent mention of prayers, petitions and intentions.
O holy and Triune God, our faith fills us with confidence as we bring our many needs to you, trusting in the unfailing assistance of those in your everlasting company, most especially our Philadelphia Saint.
Through Christ our Lord.
Saint Katharine Drexel, intercede before God to assist all who seek your aid to overcome the temptation to love inordinately the things of this world. Your holy detachment from wealth and comfort freed you for a life dedicated to prayer and service. May we have that same detachment and that same commitment to God.