Katherine Drexel was born in 1858 into a wealthy Philadelphia family. Katherine's parents were generous with their wealth and encouraged their daughters to care for less fortunate citizens. Even though she was a social debutante and inherited $14,000,000 when her father died, Katherine was attracted to the spiritual life and saw her wealth as a way to give back to God.
In a private audience with Pope Leo XIII Katherine, who felt a special concern for Native- and African Americans, encouraged him to provide priests on Native American reservations. Pope Leo challenged her to become a missionary herself. When she was unable to find a religious order that shared her passion, Katherine established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People.
She donated more than a million dollars to Indian Missions and mission schools and endowed a seminary that focused on people of color. In 1915 Katherine founded Xavier University in New Orleans for African Americans. Her money funded 50 schools for African Americans, 12 schools for Native Americans, and 145 Catholic missions; she herself kept a vow of poverty.
Mother Katherine, as she was known, died on March 31, 1955 at the age of ninety-six.