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Thu, 02.12.1891

The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament is Formed

*On this date in 1891, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a Roman Catholic order of nuns, was founded. 

It is a Catholic charitable institute founded by Saint Katharine Drexel under the name Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People.  

During her life, Saint Katharine Drexel used approximately 20 million dollars of her fortune to fund schools for Native Americans and African Americans.  The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, the meeting of all Roman Catholic bishops in the United States, renewed the vigor for missionary work among the "Colored and Indian races." Archbishop James O'Connor of Omaha, acting alongside Katharine Drexel, decided, with the approval of Archbishop P. J. Ryan of Philadelphia, to form a new congregation on behalf of Native Americans and African Americans.

For some years before this step, Miss Drexel had been very active in re-establishing and supporting schools in many Indian reservations.  The first sisters, including foundress Drexel, entered religious life under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1889, after completing a two-year novitiate to learn the foundations of religious life and upon the first profession of vows, these sisters were clothed in the habit of the new congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of the Indians and Colored People.  Drexel (now Saint Katharine Drexel) was installed as superior.  After this, they continued their preparation in the old Drexel homestead in Torresdale, Philadelphia.

Early in 1892, a motherhouse and novitiate were opened at Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, adjoining a manual training and boarding school for African American boys and girls. In 1894, four sisters set out for Santa Fe, New Mexico, to reopen St. Catherine Indian School.  Since then, the sisters have staffed several Catholic schools for Native American and African American children, which involved collaboration with the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, the Commission for the Catholic Missions among the Colored People and the Indians, and other Catholic institutions. Since its founding, the order has been headquartered at St. Elizabeth's Convent in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania. 

Saint Katharine was entombed in a crypt in the chapel until the entire crypt was moved to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The Cornwells Heights location is currently made up of the motherhouse of retired nuns and the location of Saint Katharine Drexel Mission Center and National Shrine. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.  As of 2018, there were about 100 Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, more than half of whom are retired.  

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