St Katherine Drexel

Foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (entered heaven this day in 1955)

Dear Kathy,

I daresay you are following in your namesake’s footsteps!  Using the inheritance from your great uncle to establish an orphanage near the Sioux reservation behind campus is exactly the kind of thing St Katherine Drexel (also a native of Philadelphia, just like yourself) would have done.

I didn’t realize your great uncle had acquired such a fortune.  You can bet that your conscientious use of a portion of it will redound to his benefit now, though it would have redounded MORE to his benefit if he had so invested it while he was still alive.  That’s what St Katherine and her wealthy family did.

Her father was one of America’s great bankers, but from the get-go, he knew that any wealth he acquired was simply a loan (from God, that is), and he always looked to invest it in eternity.  And he taught his three daughters to do the same.  Katharine’s older sister Elizabeth founded a Pennsylvania trade school for orphans, and her younger sister founded a liberal arts and vocational school for poor African Americans in Virginia.  And then there was Elizabeth.

A family trip west sparked her vocation.  They visited the Native American reservations, and she was scandalized by the injustice and poverty they had to endure.  Later, she saw how the freed African Americans suffered similar injustice and discrimination.  After nursing her step-mother through a three-year illness that ended in the elderly lady’s death, Katherine decided to use her inheritance to serve these Native and African American poor.  So she started up missions and schools, and even a university.  By the time of her death, 60 such institutions had sprung up, along with a religious order she had begun in order to staff her schools and institutes, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

At first she only gave her money and her ideas, but after a visit to Pope Leo XIII in Rome, where she asked the Holy Father for missionaries to come staff her schools, and the Pope asked her why she didn’t simply become a missionary herself, she decided to give her entire life.

I can’t help wondering if this act of heroic generosity on your part, investing that inheritance in an orphanage, might not be the first step on a similar path.  To be honest, I hope it is, because there is no joy that compares to the joy of loving Christ with your whole self, holding nothing back… And I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be calling you to do just that.

Your devoted uncle,


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