Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who dedicated her life and fortune to helping poor African-Americans and Native Americans, is pictured in an undated portrait. Her canonization Oct. 1, 2000, by Pope St. John Paul II made her the second American-born saint. (CNS photo courtesy Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)
St. Katharine Drexel

The daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker, Katharine received marriage proposals but wanted to become a contemplative nun.

After inheriting a fortune, she visited the Dakotas and witnessed American Indians’ poverty, subsequently pleading with Pope Leo XIII to send them more missionaries. But he and others encouraged her to found a congregation to work among people of color.

In 1891, she and 13 companions became the first Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. For more than 40 years, she led the order, using her fortune to establish numerous missions and schools for Indians and African Americans, including in the Southwest. Following a major heart attack in 1935, she retired to a life of prayer.

Canonized in 2000, she is the patroness of home missions. She is also the patroness of the diocese’s Catholic Community Foundation.