1858: Katherine Drexel: The Saint who Donated her $20 Million to American Indians and African Americans

1858: Katherine Drexel: The Saint who Donated her $20 Million to American Indians and African Americans
Photo Credit To http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Katherine-drexel.jpg

Story Highlights

  • historical event: St. Katherine Drexel was only the second American ever to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

Katherine Drexel, who later became a saint known for her generosity, was born on this day. She devoted her life to caring for American Indians and African Americans. St. Catherine was born in the U.S. city of Philadelphia, and was in fact is the second American woman ever declared a saint by the Catholic Church (the first was the famous Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton).

St. Catherine came from a wealthy American banking family. The family’s fortune was founded by her grandfather – Francis Martin Drexel – who moved to the U.S. from Austria. He was born in the Alpine town of Dornbirn, in the mountainous region of Austria named Vorarlberg, next to the Swiss border. He moved to Philadelphia and started a banking business. Of course, the Drexel family was Catholic. St. Catherine’s uncle – the wealthy benefactor Anthony J. Drexel – founded the famous Drexel University in Philadelphia.

St. Catherine’s mother died just six months after she was born. Her father remarried to Emma Bouvier, from the famous Catholic family from which Jacqueline Bouvier – later known as Jackie Kennedy Onassis – also originated. Although Emma was her stepmother, she allegedly lovingly cared for her as if she was her own child.

St. Catherine became a nun, and eventually founded her own order – the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. Supposedly, St. Catherine invested her own inherited money in her missionary work. About 60 missions and schools were opened, and the most important venture was the founding of Xavier University in Louisiana – the only Catholic university in the United States specifically dedicated to African-American students.

The efforts of St. Catherine Drexel significantly contributed to insure the capacity for the education of African Americans in the United States. St. Catherine was declared blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1988, and the same Pope proclaimed her a saint in the year 2000. She is revered because of her advocacy for correcting injustices inflicted upon minorities and her commitment to the unity of all people, especially because she selflessly invested her inherited wealth in the realization of useful objectives (reportedly 20 million dollars).

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