Cover image for Katharine Drexel : the riches-to-rags story of an American Catholic Saint
Katharine Drexel : the riches-to-rags story of an American Catholic Saint
Hughes, Cheryl D., 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Michigan : William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [2014]
Physical Description:
vii, 275 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX4700.D77 H84 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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On October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) to be a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Only the second American-born Catholic saint in history, Drexel founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891 and established more than sixty Blessed Sacrament missions and schools.

In this biography Cheryl Hughes chronicles the remarkable life of St. Katharine Drexel, exploring what drove her to turn away from her family's wealth and become a missionary nun who served some of the most underprivileged and marginalized people of her time. Through her inspiration and effort "Mother" Katharine improved the lives of untold numbers of Native Americans and African Americans, overcoming open hostility to her work from various quarters, including the Ku Klux Klan. Her saintly legacy lives on today.

Author Notes

Cheryl C. D. Hughes is professor of humanities and religious studies at Tulsa Community College, Tulsa, Oklahoma. On the side she does first-person presentations of St. Katharine Drexel for church groups and schools.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Hughes's biography of Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) is a compelling mix of historical data, theological analysis, and contemporary reflection. Hughes (humanities and religious studies, Tulsa Community College) raises questions about the intersection of American and Catholic identities and uses Drexel to analyze the relationship. The book is a history of a saint, but it is also in part a history of Catholicism and Catholics in the US. The author begins by detailing Drexel's family history and biography, then describes Drexel's discernment process before moving on to a detailed look at the development of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, founded in 1891 to honor Sister Katharine. Hughes then explores the controversial spiritual practices Drexel undertook, including physical mortification. Throughout, Hughes provides lengthy excerpts from Drexel's spiritual journals and letters between her and bishops. The conclusion jumps to the late 20th century and John Paul II's canonization of Drexel. This link to contemporary Catholic life makes the book more than historical biography. Hughes's admiration of Drexel is clear from the beginning, though this does not cloud her intellectual integrity. Instead, it animates the writing and captures readers' imaginations. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. --Katherine Anne Dugan, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

Abbreviationsp. vii
Introduction to the Mystery of Katharine Drexelp. 1
1 Simply Katie: Katharine Drexel's Family Lifep. 14
Family Backgroundp. 15
Academic and Religious Educationp. 21
Girlhoodp. 26
Early Travelsp. 33
Coming of Agep. 35
The Deaths of Her Parentsp. 41
2 "Make Haste Slowly": The Discernment of a Vocationp. 51
Keeping Spiritual Accounts and Early Religious Impulsesp. 52
The Beginning of Discernmentp. 58
Crisis in Discernmentp. 74
Vocation Acknowledgedp. 92
Founding a New Orderp. 98
3 Growth of the Orderp. 103
St. Catherine's, Santa Fe, New Mexicop. 110
St. Francis de Sales, Powhatan, Virginiap. 112
St. Michael's, St. Michael's, Arizonap. 115
Immaculate Mother, Nashville, Tennesseep. 120
Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisianap. 126
Social Justice/Social Action in the 1930sp. 134
The Retirement of Mother Katharinep. 136
By the Numbers: Peak and Declinep. 139
4 The Kenotic and Eucharistic Spirituality of Katharine Drexelp. 167
Kenotic Spiritualityp. 168
Eucharistic Spiritualityp. 199
5 The Pope, the Times, and the Saint: "Be Not Afraid!"p. 206
Signs of the Timesp. 208
Pope John Paul II Comes into Dialogue with Katharine Drexelp. 224
Mission and Hopep. 228
6 A Coda: The Mystery Revealedp. 255
Acknowledgmentsp. 260
Selected Bibliographyp. 262
Indexp. 273