My favorite tidbit of information about St. Katharine Ann Drexel is that she had her ears pierced as a teenager. I can relate to that. It’s a tad vain.
St. Katharine is known for her extravagant generosity. She literally gave what in today’s dollars would be the equivalent of 84 million towards educating impoverished African Americans and Native American Indians. By 1942, she and her sisters had established a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. She also built big. Have you heard of Drexel University? She was holy, and wealthy but she also had business savvy and common sense. If you want to make a lasting dent in the problems of poverty and discrimination facilitate education.
We may want to think that St. Katharine’s work solved the problems for Native Americans and African Americans in the U.S. It didn’t. The mental health statistics bear that out. Here are a few.
- American Indians experience serious psychiatric distress 1.5% more than the general population and experience post-traumatic stress twice as often. They use and abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages and higher rates than ALL other ethnic groups.
- African American women experience higher rates of depression than white women or black male counterparts and they are more likely to believe depression is “normal.” In fact, 56% believe depression is a normal part of aging.
All of us are called to contribute in one way or another to alleviate the suffering of others, even if we are suffering too. Most of us don’t have millions of dollars to share and we won’t therefore be famously visible in our generosity. However, in God’s eyes all generosity is equal.
Attached are links to the mental health information cited and a biography of St. Katharine Drexel. The picture is public domain, found on Wikimedia