Saturday, March 3, 2012

St. Katharine Drexel

Today’s saint inherited millions of dollars in 1885 when her parents died. She and her sisters had always been concerned for less fortunate people and they began using the income from their inheritance for various charitable works, especially among the Native American and African-American population of this country. But this wasn’t enough. With the encouragement of the pope himself and the bishop of Omaha, she began a new congregation of religious sisters to serve these people. She was beatified and canonized by Pope John Paul II who said the following about her in his homily at her canonization. As we read, let us pray that the world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society.

Mother Katharine Drexel was born into wealth in Philadelphia in the United States. But from her parents she learned that her family's possessions were not for them alone but were meant to be shared with the less fortunate. As a young woman, she was deeply distressed by the poverty and hopeless conditions endured by many Native Americans and Afro-Americans. She began to devote her fortune to missionary and educational work among the poorest members of society. Later, she understood that more was needed. With great courage and confidence in God's grace, she chose to give not just her fortune but her whole life totally to the Lord.

To her religious community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she taught a spirituality based on prayerful union with the Eucharistic Lord and zealous service of the poor and the victims of racial discrimination. Her apostolate helped to bring about a growing awareness of the need to combat all forms of racism through education and social services. Katharine Drexel is an excellent example of that practical charity and generous solidarity with the less fortunate which has long been the distinguishing mark of American Catholics.

May her example help young people in particular to appreciate that no greater treasure can be found in this world than in following Christ with an undivided heart and in using generously the gifts we have received for the service of others and for the building of a more just and fraternal world.

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