Sunday, March 19, 2017 - Updated: 8:00 am
Cordelia Frances Biddle said the thought still amazes her at times.
“It’s an odd thing knowing that I have a saint as a relative,” she said.
The author, a direct descendant of Francis Martin Drexel, grandfather of St. Katharine Drexel, spoke during a Lenten renewal March 7-8 at Ave Maria Church of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Bentleyville. Biddle, who teaches creative writing at Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College, is the author of “St. Katharine: The Life of Katharine Drexel.”
She spoke of someone who struggled with a contemplative life, but “was driven” on her mission to uplift the lives of the oppressed. The saint could be impatient, Biddle noted, especially with herself. Katharine was a “giddy girl” who was far from being well-mannered. And while Katharine still liked to have fun even as an adult, her primary focus was always to serve others.
“I was struck by how genuine and real she was,” Biddle said. “I was struck by her humanness.”
Biddle noted that she is thankful that St. Katherine Drexel didn’t have access to e-mail in her day because she wrote many letters that still exist. In many of them, Biddle said, the saint seemed to write as much to herself as others. She wrote of being silent, reverent and humble in order to hear God speak. But just as her joys were evident, so were her frustrations.
From her writings, Biddle considers the saint’s motto to be “Think it. Desire it. Spread it. Act it.”
Biddle later spoke of St. Katharine’s humanity and compassion.
“She was so mission-driven,” she said. “Nothing was going to get in her way and stop her.”
Father Edward Yuhas, administrator of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, spoke of St. Katharine’s great devotion to the Eucharist and a life of faith centered on it. She witnessed a total gift of self, he noted, something we are called to do in the image of Jesus.
“She was never about anything other than advancing the spirit of Jesus,” Father Yuhas said.
It was “a blessing” that his parish is named after the saint, he said, and he expressed his gratitude to Bishop David Zubik. The parish was established Jan. 8 as a merger of the former parishes of St. Agnes, Richeyville; Ave Maria; St. Joseph, Roscoe; St. Oliver Plunkett, Fredericktown; and St. Thomas Aquinas, California. All six churches from the five parishes remain open.
The goals of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s On Mission for The Church Alive! initiative are reflected by St. Katharine, Father Yuhas noted, because she is a model for all who evangelize. She has touched the lives of the parishioners and inspired them “to go out and build the church in ways that are sustainable for years to come.”
Kathy Heino, pastoral associate, who helped organize the renewal, recognized the saint for her “very welcoming” spirit.
Added Sharon Zigerelli, business administrator: “The spirit of Katharine Drexel seems to have invaded the lives of the people of this parish. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Bishop Zubik followed the renewal by making a pastoral visit to the parish and celebrating Mass March 12 at the Bentleyville church.