These are the covers of "Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint" by Cheryl C.D. Hughes and "Saint Katharine: The Life of Katharine Drexel" by Cordelia Frances Biddle. The books are reviewed by Rachelle Linner. (CNS)
"Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint" by Cheryl C.D. Hughes. Wm. B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014). 283 pp., $20.
"Saint Katharine: The Life of Katharine Drexel" by Cordelia Frances Biddle. Westholme Publishing (Yardley, Pennsylvania, 2014). 280 pp., $26.
Together, these two very different books about St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) provide a full and exacting portrait of the remarkable woman who, indeed, went from riches to rags.
Born a Philadelphia heiress, she divested herself of wealth and privilege to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which has a particular mission of serving African-Americans and Native Americans. The two books complement each other and it is a happy coincidence that both would be published around the same time.
Each author brings particular strengths to her task.
Biddle, who teaches creative writing at Drexel University, is a direct descendent of Francis Martin Drexel, St. Katharine's grandfather. A vivid and direct prose style brings her extensive historical research to life.
Hughes, a professor of humanities and religious studies at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, has an excellent command of theological issues. She writes clearly and persuasively about St. Katharine Drexel's religious upbringing, spirituality and the charism of her order.