St. Katharine Drexel, Patroness of Racial Justice

Today is the Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel, the foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.  She strove to improve the education of blacks and Indians in a racially divided America.  More on that at the bottom of the post.

There is an important connection between St. Katharine and Louisiana.  First, let me give some highlights of her life:

  • St. Katharine was born in 1858 to a VERY wealthy Philadelphia philanthropist, Francis Drexel.
  • In a meeting with Pope Leo XIII, Katharine asked the pope to send more missionaries to the Indians in Wyoming.  Pope Leo XIII said to her, Why don’t you become a missionary yourself?
  • In 1913, with the permission of the pope, Katharine created a new missionary order – the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (for Indians and Colored People).
  • The Order opened a system of black Catholic schools and Indian missions.
  • Katharine Drexel died in 1955.  She was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.  Her shrine at the Motherhouse was made a National Shrine in 2008.

So, what’s her connection to Louisiana?  In 1915, St. Katharine founded Xavier Preparatory School.  In 1925, the Prep School developed into  Xavier University in New Orleans, the only historically black Roman Catholic university.

Xavier University in New Orleans; founded by St. Katharine Drexel

Xavier University in New Orleans; founded by St. Katharine Drexel

Also, Lafayette Parish Public Schools has a school named after her – Katharine Drexel Elementary School.  The school was founded in the 1920s as a black mission school to serve the Broussard area.  The school was originally named St. Joseph School. 

Lafayette Parish established the Broussard Negro School during the time of school segregation.  During the 1960s, a Mrs. Nelson convinced the School Board to rename the school to Katharine Drexel in honor of the founder.  Of course, when the name was changed, Katharine was not a saint yet.  It’s too bad that the Lafayette Parish School System hasn’t seen fit add “Saint” to the name of the school.

People of Lafayette:  Unite!  Call upon the LPSS to rename the school Saint Katharine Drexel Elementary. 🙂

Meanwhile, we have an Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, who says that America is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race relations.

Oh, by the way … Eric Holder is the first black Attorney General of the United States.  He was appointed by the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Yet, somehow, we’re cowards when it comes to race relations ? ! ?

St. Katharine Drexel, pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

 UPDATE:  I want to add a YouTube clip about the life of St. Katharine.  I found this clip in the following way:




  • I visited the Opinionated Catholic, who does a daily round-up of Louisiana Catholic blogs.
  • The Opionated Catholic reported on a post about St. Katharine at the blog, Da Mihi Animas; where I found the video.
  • The video was produced by The Apostleship of Prayer, which has some really good resources.
This entry was posted in Feasts and Solemnities, Saints. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to St. Katharine Drexel, Patroness of Racial Justice

  1. Fr. Sibley says:

    Nick, it is also interesting to know that St. Katherine Drexel helped to found a school/chapel in Evangeline Parish – in Pin Clair (Pain Clair) right outside of Mamou. I’m busy digging up information on it and hope to put a small shrine in the Church.

    • Nicholas Jagneaux says:

      Fr. Sibley,

      Thanks for adding that information to the comment box. I heard you say that at the mission last night, but I already had written up this post and scheduled its publication.

      When you get more information, please let me know so that I can publicize it more.

      (See you at the mission again tonight.)

  2. Stephanie Andrus says:

    Mr. Nick,
    Was any more information ever found out about the school she helped to establish? Does anyone know exactly where it was located? Fascinating history!

  3. Donald Marcantel says:

    I know where the church was located and the cemetery. it was behind the cemetery where the young woman’s body was buried by the Lavergne guy.

    • Nicholas Jagneaux says:


      Thanks for giving that information.

      I’m sorry about taking so long to get to your comment. I don’t usually monitor this blog too much anymore.

      But, I’m glad to know that some people are still looking at it.

      God bless you.

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