DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     January 22-24, 1999     vol. 10, no. 15

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          ROME, 21 (NE) In the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II to the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, he will probably announce the canonization of the blessed Catherine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Sacrament. Mother Drexel founded the Sacramentines toward the end of the XIX century, having evangelization, education and human promotion of afro-american and native North Americans as its charisma. Mother Drexel would be the second American canonized Saint born in the United States, a nation that counts more than sixty million Catholics.

          The Holy See's recognition of a miracle attributed to Mother Drexel has leveled the road to the her canonization. In 1974 a 14 year old teenager named Robert Gutherman had lost his hearing in the right ear due to a strange and serious infection that caused bone degenerating of his auditory system. Even the most powerful antibiotics were powerless against the illness. The doctors were not able to sooth Robert's pain either. Some sacramentine nuns, friends of the Gutherman family, encouraged Robert's parents to pray to Mother Drexel for her to intercede before God for the sick boy. On that night, in spite of his pain, the youngster joined his family in prayer. On the next morning the pain had disappeared and Robert had recovered his hearing. The doctor that assisted him examined Roberts ear with incredulity. "I cannot believe what I am seeing. The body is curing itself. Is this possible?," wrote the doctor later.

          The cause of Mother Caterina was introduced in 1964, nine years after her death. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1988. But a new miracle was required for canonization. After a long process, in which the medical staff of the Vatican Congregation examined the case, Robert's recuperation was declared to be a miracle.

          Probably the most notable miracle was Catherine Drexel's life. She was born in 1858, in the heart of one of the richest and most notable families of Philadelphia. Catherine ever since she was little girl helped the poor, especially blacks recently liberated from slavery. Her testimony was a constant and uncomfortable testimony for the people of the frivolous society of Philadelphia. The premature death of her parents had left her with an immense fortune, that added up to what would be about 250 million dollars at the present time. Catherine soon understood that charity should always be accompanied by a Christian formation and human promotion.

          Her opportunity to contribute in a more concrete task came when two missionaries among the Indians of Dakota requested the financing of schools for the natives. Catherine lent her help and committed herself to going to Rome in search for missionaries. In an interview with Pope Leo XIII the young Drexel requested for the Holy Father's help. The wise Pontiff, that had perceived Catherine's spiritual longing, answered: "Well, my daughter, why don't you become a missionary?"

          Pope Leo XIII's words were engraved in Catherine's heart. In 1889, with 30 years of age, Catherine Drexel decided to enter into the religious life. Her decision constituted a "scandal" among the high society of the main cities of the eastern coast, attached to their vertiginous material growth, but indifferent to the wide sectors of needy people that were formed on the periphery of the cities. When she made her profession, Catherine added a private vote: "being mother and handmaid of colored people and Indians."

          In 1891 she founded a new congregation, the nuns of the Sacred Sacrament, in order to serve her "poorer children." A skillful employment of the money of her inheritance allowed the building of eleven schools for Indians in rural regions. But her greatest commitment was her work with Americans of African origin. She inaugurated 100 schools in the country and ghettos of the southern cities. Mother Drexel founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the first catholic university for colored people in the United States.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

January 22-24, 1999       volume 10, no. 15


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