October 16, 2019

A Catholic Sister with a Brethren Mother

Katharine Drexel was born in 1858. 
Her mother, Hannah, was baptized by the Brethren in 1850 and then married into the wealthy Drexel family of Philadelphia.  Hannah died just 34 days after her daughter Katharine was born.

Although Katharine never knew her mother she often visited her mother’s family in Germantown, PA where she played with her Brethren cousins and learned to crochet from her grandmother who wore the Brethren plain dress.

Katharine later gave up her social position as a member of a prominent family, choosing to follow a religious vocation at the age of 30 and choosing to live on less than a dollar a day for many years.  Using her inheritance she became one of the country’s most generous supporters of schools for African Americans and American Indians. Over her lifetime she contributed $17.5 million to various causes.

She was known as Sister Mary Katharine Drexel, founder of the Order of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She was often called “saintly”, and in 1964 the process began in the Catholic Church to have her declared a Saint, and in 2000 she was formally canonized as a saint - the first Catholic “saint” with a Brethren mother!