This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3 -- St. Catherine Drexel

If you were running a charity, St. Catherine was the kind of woman you want supporting you. Heir to the Drexel railroad / banking fortune, she was greatly distressed by the miserable conditions in which Native Americans and African Americans were living. She even brought it up during a sit-down with Pope Leo XIII, asking that he send more missionaries to Bishop James O'Connor in Wyoming. His reply: Why don't you become a missionary yourself?

I give them both a lot of credit. Here was someone wealthy and well-connected enough to get an audience with the Holy Father and he called her out on what she was doing. Maybe it was different in 1887 (it was) and maybe I'm cynical (ya think so?) and maybe even his response was a little gendered (but probably not, since he was the Pope), but I am not inclined to believe that many folks would sass heavy-hitting benefactors that way.

Of course, Leo scored (in a pastoral sense). Catherine went back to the states, rained millions on the Dakotas, joined the Sisters of Mercy, and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Coloreds. When approval of the new order of nuns was held in the Vatican bureaucracy, she made a special trip to Rome to see it would be expedited. It was, of course.

She founded fifty missions for Indians and thirteen schools for coloreds (as the term was back then). The most famous is probably Xavier University in New Orleans, the first American university for blacks.

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