New Tomb for Saint Katherine Drexel; Remains to be Relocated to Philadelphia

Article written by Kyle Purchase on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Saint Katherine Drexel, a patron saint in racial justice and philanthropy, will have her remains relocated to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, where a new tomb will be created for her.

Her remains are currently held at the Sisters of Blessed Sacrament Motherhouse and Shrine in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The project will not only involve the relocation of Saint Katherine Drexel's remains but also the creation of new programs to promote her life’s work as well. Some of these programs include school-based lesson plans, documentaries, a new website by the Cathedral Basilica (, social media sites, and a Thanksgiving Mass on November 18, 2018.

Saint Katherine Drexel was part of the wealthy family based in Philadelphia, with family heritage tracing back to Austria. Her grandfather, Francis Martin Drexel, settled in Philadelphia in 1817, where he was a banker and an artist. Her uncle was Anthony Joseph Drexel, Sr., an American banker who played a major role in the rise of modern global finance after the American Civil War. As the dominant partner of Drexel & Co. of Philadelphia, he founded Drexel, Morgan & Co (later J.P. Morgan & Co.) in New York in 1871 with J. P. Morgan as his junior partner. He also founded Drexel University in 1891. Additionally, he was the first president of the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art), the nation's first private organization dedicated to integrating public art and urban planning.

Saint Katherine focused her religious causes based on tough experiences she had dealt with as a young woman. She was greatly impacted as she watched her stepmother suffering from terminal cancer and realized that all her family's wealth couldn't protect her stepmother from pain or death. Additionally, when her family traveled through the western states, she was appalled at the mistreatment of Native Americans. 

She dedicated her whole life to giving back to charitable causes and promoting racial justice. In January 1887, Katherine had met with Pope Leo XIII asking for missionaries to staff some Indian missions that she and her sisters had been financing. In response, the Pope suggested that Katharine become a missionary herself. She made the decision to give herself totally to God, along with her inheritance, through service to American Indians and Afro-Americans.

Saint Katherine passed away on March 3, 1955. The Catholic Church recognized that date as her feast day and she was given sainthood (canonized) on October 1, 2000. She was the second canonized saint to have been born in the United States and the first to have been born a U.S. citizen.

All of the communications and new construction plans for the relocation of Saint Katherine Drexel’s remains have been made possible through generous grants provided by the Connelly Foundation. The Connelly Foundation was founded in 1955 by John and Josephine Connelly, who were both devoted to their Catholic faith and the Philadelphia region. They focused their charitable work on increasing access to higher education, strengthening Catholic schools, and providing help and opportunity to the needy. Today, the Foundation stays true to their founders' vision and gives grants to nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia region, who focus on the areas of arts, education (with a particular emphasis on Catholic education), and human services.

The Connelly Foundations' support with the Saint Katherine project will be a grateful moment to give a permanent resting home to a gracious Philadelphia saint.