The Door of Hope: The Story of Katherine Drexel
Raised by a wise Philadelphia banker-papa and a loving, devout step-mother, Katharine Drexel is uniquely equipped to confront a distressing failing within the century-old nation of the United States. In the 1880’s, the lack of educational opportunities for Native and Black Americans is appalling, something the Drexels know well because of many close friendships with missionary priests and bishops. Katharine and her sisters, Lizzie and Louise, lose their mother in 1883 and when their father dies in 1885, they inherit his large fortune. Although deeply grieving, they begin at once to use their new wealth as their parents would have desired, with Katharine’s first act an agreement to support Franciscan teachers working in the Dakota Territory. As Lizzie and Louise prepare to marry, Katharine looks to a life of prayer as a contemplative sister. In the end, however, she accepts Pope Leo XIII’s proposal that she both pray and work as a missionary sister. In 1889, at the age of 31, Katharine enters religious life—eventually founding the Congregation of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Through her long life, Katharine tirelessly journeys to establish and maintain schools throughout the United States for American minorities—opening many doors of hope in the face of widespread prejudice and discrimination. This one-time privileged Philadelphia socialite became Saint Katharine Drexel in 2000, 45 years after her death at the age of 97.