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Saint Katharine Drexel Twins with the Diocese of Gallup

Part One of a Four Part Series by Stella Kulp


It was proposed, at a staff meeting, that perhaps we could “twin” with a parish in the Diocese of Gallup, perhaps with Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico, the See of the Diocese, which was erected to serve the needs of the Native American Reservations and Pueblos that surround it. When St. Katharine would travel into the town of Gallup, by train or stagecoach, or come in from the Reservation to purchase supplies, she would have to attend Mass at the Sacred Heart Parish.

This parish was at the time part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, served by diocesan priests for 21 years, until the Franciscans took it over. The Franciscans were already serving in this vast area after answering the call of Saint Katharine Drexel to come and serve the Native Americans in the area. In 1939, when Rome announced that the Sacred Heart parish would soon be the See of a new Diocese, it was four years after Mother Katharine suffered a heart attack. She probably heard the news while convalescing in her Motherhouse of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters.

Her influence was great in the area, as Mother Katharine helped fund and construct churches, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, and schools in both New Mexico and Arizona, now in the care of the Diocese of Gallup, (which crosses over the state lines). Some of her sisters still serve in the Diocese, particularly in places of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

That the Diocese of Gallup appreciates the great role Mother Katharine played in the Diocesan area, can be seen by visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was built and dedicated in 1955, the same year Mother Katharine passed away. She is depicted in a stained glass window and there is a side altar which has a triptrych similar to what we have downstairs in the library –which depicts churches she built in the Diocese and elsewhere in the country.

This impoverished Cathedral holds many funerals for those parishes on the reservations, due to the small size of reservation churches, and provides for the spiritual needs of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Houck, AZ, This parish, on the Navajo Nation, was built by St. Katharine Drexel as well.

The Cathedral’s Family Center is now housing the Sacred Heart Catholic School which has been around for over 100 years. The old school building was quite a distance from the Cathedral, was very run down and had become too costly to repair. There was discussion of building a new school but the pandemic hit. So, the school was temporarily moved to the Family Center. In converting the Family Center into classrooms many expenses had to be incurred.

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Saint Katharine Drexel