Who is St. Katharine Drexel?

St. Katharine DrexelKatharine Drexel walked among Native and African peoples of her time and heard their cry for justice, their hope for unity and their dream of peace. Katharine could have made of life whatever she chose. That choice came out of a strong and deep compassion and an uncommon stewardship.

Born on November 26, 1858 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Katharine Drexel was the second daughter of three. Katharine's father was a wealthy internationally known banker and philanthropist. Both parents were very generous and instilled in their daughters the idea that wealth was simply loaned to them and was to be shared with others. As a child, Katharine's mother opened their mansion to the poor, who came in with many requests for help with rent, food, and schooling. Katie and her sisters learned first-hand that many, many less-fortunate families lived in slum buildings just one meal away from starvation.

It was a family vacation in the U.S. West that probably set Katharine on a historic quest that led her to become one of our country's greatest home missionaries. She saw Native Americans mistreated and living in extreme poverty so when her parents died in 1883 and 1885, she started spending her huge inheritance on schools and churches on Indian Reservations.