BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) — A Roman Catholic religious order announced Tuesday that it would sell its suburban Philadelphia estate and move the tomb of the second American-born saint, a banker's daughter who gave up her wealth to become a nun.
The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which was founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1891, also will sell 2,000 acres in Powhatan, Virginia, the site of two now-closed schools for black students.
Sister Donna Breslin, the order's president, said in a statement that "the time is right" for the order to divest itself of "two of our largest properties."
"The properties are too large for our current and future needs, and for our financial resources," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that the decision to sell was made "after prayer, study and reflection."
Thousands come each year to the 44-acre property in Bensalem, which is home to the order's motherhouse and Drexel's tomb and shrine.
Drexel was a Philadelphia socialite and heiress who vowed to live in poverty and educate Native Americans and African-Americans. She founded schools, including Xavier University in New Orleans, and missions around the country. She died in 1955, and in 2000 became the second American-born person to be canonized.
The shrine will remain open through 2017, and the remains will then be moved to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in Philadelphia. The order will also entrust many of its archives to the care of the Philadelphia archdiocese, the statement said.
Proceeds from the sales will be used to challenge racism and injustice in all its forms and to support the care of retired sisters, Breslin said.
"As we prepare to celebrate in July the 125th anniversary of our Catholic religious order, we rededicate our resources to our mission serving some of the most vulnerable people in the United States, Haiti and Jamaica," Breslin said in the statement.
Breslin said the decision to sell the Pennsylvania property, which features meditative gardens and a chapel designed by Drexel herself, does not come without sadness.
"It is leaving home," she told the Inquirer. "It's not easy. But we believe this is what God is asking of us."
This story has been corrected to show the saint's name is Katharine, not Katherine.