On November 26, 1858, Francis Anthony and Hannah Langstroth Drexel, welcomed their second daughter, Katherine, into the world. One month after Katherine was born, Hannah passed away. For the next two years, Katherine and her older sister, Elizabeth, were sent to live with their aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Drexel. While the two girls lived with their aunt and uncle, their father married Emma Bouvier. They then reunited their family and bought a summer home in Torresdale, Pennsylvania.
Over the long summer, Katherine and Elizabeth taught at the Sunday school that their new stepmother began for the neighbors and children. On top of their work at the Sunday school, they spent two afternoons a week helping to service the poor.
Katherine’s stepmother developed cancer when Katherine was at the age of twenty-one, and she watched over her stepmother for three years of intense suffering. Her stepmother later died. Katherine then became familiar with the suffering of the American Indians. She visited the reservations to see the conditions and needs of the poor. Then, she began to build schools, supplying food, clothing, home furnishings, and salaries for other people. She became aware of the sufferings of black people of the south and east, and did all she could to help them. She encouraged and supported missions throughout this country and farther. In 1885, Katherine’s father passed away.
In 1889 Katherine became religious with the consent of Bishop O’Connor. This encouraged her to work for the Indians and Black people. On November 7, 1889 she received a religious habit and the name Sr. Mary Katherine. She pronounced her vows on February 12,1891 and moved to St. Elizabeth’s convent in Cornwell Heights, while beginning to open boarding schools for black children.
Katherine was hit with a severe heart attack during 1935, and spent the next twenty years in prayer and retirement. She grew more and more interested in helping with the missions, until her death on March 3, 1955. Her body is kept in the crypt of the Motherhouse Chapel, the St. Katherine Drexel Shrine. In the opinion of most people, she was truly a saint, and did what she could to help the misfortunate. She was canonized a saint on October 1, 2000