The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Sacrifice: Lessons from St. Katharine Drexel

Published: March 21, 2019   
Sarah Duvall

St. Katharine Drexel, whose feast day was March 3, is one of my most favored Catholic role models. Katharine Drexel was born into a privileged family in Pennsylvania in 1858. Her family was very wealthy and Katharine and her sisters never wanted for anything.

She traveled often across the country and saw the struggles faced by Native Americans and African Americans, who were recently freed from slavery and yet still faced prejudice, poverty and lack of education. When her parents died, Katharine inherited a great amount of money and decided she wanted to help those less fortunate than her. She and her sisters donated large amounts of money and became very involved in the Saint Francis Mission of South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation.

Not long after, they sought an audience with Pope Leo XIII to ask for more missionaries to assist the organization. It was then that Katharine was inspired to join the Sisters of Mercy and not long after founded an order of nuns called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Katharine sacrificed her entire life for the assistance of those stuck in cruel mistreatment and poverty. She gave up all her wealth, which was estimated to be around $5 million. She saw how much others struggled simply to get by and recognized that she was the one to help them. She was willing to give up everything she had ever known, to become poor, just so she could help others rise out of poverty and find God. She died on March 3, 1955, and was canonized in 2000.

A lot of times we see people on the street or in front of stores or gas stations and just drive on by because someone else will help them. We know that there are organizations to help people who struggle to make a living, but we don’t get involved with them.

We say, “Oh, that’s not my job. Someone else will take care of it.” It’s that kind of attitude that I think Katharine Drexel and God himself would be ashamed of. If a millionaire heiress can give up her fortune and livelihood for the benefit of the less fortunate, can’t we give up a little time or money?

My CYM group does a lot of work to help the underprivileged. We take up multiple canned food collections every year and deliver them to our local care center. I am lucky to have a school that is greatly involved in the community’s volunteer work, and through school organizations, such as Key Club, I get to help those around me.

One of my favorite things we do is the Angel Tree. Every year around Christmas, we get to pick a few children who will not get any Christmas presents and buy them everything they could wish for. We buy necessities like toothbrushes and socks, but we also get to buy them new toys, books and most years even a bicycle. It really warms my heart to think that we brought joy to a kid on Christmas, who otherwise would have gotten nothing. 

Sometimes, when I am working a charity dinner or shopping for a food drive, I think to myself, “Why would I do this? It doesn’t benefit me at all. I would rather be out doing something for myself,” but then I remember St. Katharine’s story. She saw such worth in helping others that she left behind her entire life.

If she can give up that much, I should be able to spend two hours serving a dinner or $30 buying necessities. It takes a lot of strength to give up all your wealth, to go from a life of excess to living with only basic necessities.

One day, I wish to be that strong and selfless. I want to be able to give everything I have to someone else because they need it more and to not think twice about it.

Let us stand up and recognize that we are the ones God sent to help. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

God made us to do his work. We must recognize our job is not to solely take care of ourselves or our loved ones. It is to care for all those around us, and be God’s representation on earth. We are the body of the Church; without our action, the Church cannot do its job in caring for each of us.

Sarah Duvall is a junior at Sacred Heart School in Morrilton. She attends Sacred Heart Church.

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