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Why St. Katharine Drexel took a fourth vow in religious life


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Philip Kosloski - published on 03/02/23

Beyond the three vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, she took a fourth vow of Service to the “Indian and Black Races.”
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St. Katharine Drexel didn’t want to become an ordinary religious sister. She wanted to dedicate her life to the service of minorities in the United States of America.

According to Sister Eleanor McCann, RSM, on the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine website, “Katharine, who was following the plight of the Native groups, saw the injustices they were suffering at the hands of the federal government. She noted, as well, the severe racial injustices and torture of Black people in the South, for whom she grieved.”

Both of these injustices tore at her heart and she was resolved to help them in some way.

Initially this led her to join the Novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She joined with the confidence that she would found her own religious congregation that would help these minorities.

In fact, she even took a fourth vow, which was not required by the Sisters of Mercy.

McCann explains, “She would not only take the three vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, but a fourth vow of Service to the ‘Indian and Black Races.’”

Eventually she was able to found the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacramentand went to work.

She blazed a trail west, ministering to the Native Americans and African Americans so severely treated by much of the population. By the end of her life she’d established well over 100 missions, 50 schools for African American children and 12 schools for Native Americans.

Her work wasn’t always welcomed, and she was even threatened by the KKK. However, St. Katharine was never dissuaded and was firm in her conviction to help the most despised groups of society.

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