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Blessed Sacrament, Sisters of the


(Abbreviation: SBS, Official Catholic Directory #0260); formerly known as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People; a congregation of women religious founded by American-born Saint Katharine Mary drexel on Feb. 12, 1891. As defined by the foundress, the special purpose of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament consists in ministering to the needs of the African-Americans and Native-Americans.

During a personal audience with Leo XIII, Miss Drexel represented the need for sisters to staff schools for Blacks and Native Americans. In reply the Pope challenged Katharine to give herself as well as her wealth to this cause. In 1889, under the direction of Bishop James O'Connor of Omaha, Nebraska, and later under Archbishop Patrick Ryan of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the 31-year-old Katharine began a two-year novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On July 16, 1890, Leo XIII sent his apostolic blessing to Sister Mary Katharine and her companions, the nucleus of the new congregation. When she made her vows on Feb. 12, 1891, Mother Katharine was named by Archbishop Ryan foundress and first superior of the community. During the construction of a motherhouse, the old Drexel home at Torresdale, near Philadelphia, served as a temporary novitiate. St. Elizabeth's Convent, the new motherhouse, was officially opened on Dec. 3, 1892.

The decree of praise for the constitutions came on Feb. 16, 1897; temporary approbation followed on July 11, 1907; and final approval was given by Pius X on May 25, 1913. On June 24, 1961, the Congregation for Religious approved a general revision of the constitutions.

Mother Katharine did not confine her efforts to her own institute but used the income from the vast family estate to support many other apostolic undertakings. The Drexel family built churches and schools, supported missionary priests and sisters, and gave bountifully to teachers on Black and Native American missions throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. When Mother Katharine survived her two sisters, the congregation she founded enjoyed the benefit of her increased income during her lifetime. After her death in 1955, the principal on which Mother Katharine's income had been based was distributed to various charities throughout the United States.

Bibliography: k. burton, The Golden Door: The Life of Katharine Drexel (New York 1957).

[h. j. sievers/eds.]

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