SKD Parishes and Schools

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
11361 Prospect Dr.
Jackson, CA 95642

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
2501 S. Post Rd
Weston, FL 33327

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
1922 S.W. 20th Ave.
Cape Coral, FL 33991

St. Katharine Drexel Mission of Our Lady of the Mount Church
140 New England Rd
Wildwood, GA 30757

St. Katharine Drexel Parish C/O Our Lady of the Lake
501 Cross Rd., PO Box 821
McCall, ID 83638

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
722 South 12th St
Springfield, IL 62703

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
PO Box 1189
Sugar Grove, IL 60554

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
2015 Louisiana Ave
New Orleans, LA 70115

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
517 Blue Hill Ave
Dorchester, MA 02121

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
8428 Opossumtown Pike
Frederick, MD 21702

St. Katharine Drexel Summer Chapel of All Saints Parish
419 Mountain Rd
Harpswell, ME 04079

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
7101 143rd Ave. NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

St. Katharine Drexel Mission of Holy Family Parish
154 Maple Road PO BOX 64
Maple, NC 27956

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
40 Hidden Springs Rd
Alton, NH 03809

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
126 Church Street
Bentleyville, PA 15314

Ascension Parish & St. Katharine Drexel Parish
612 Hudson Street
Forest City, PA 18421

St. Joseph’s Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel
28 Cameron Street
Columbia, VA 23038
(434) 842-3970

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
135 North Ogden St.
Buffalo, NY 14206

St. Katharine Drexel Church
1 Peter Drive
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
1920 Providence Ave.
Chester, PA 19013

St. Katharine Drexel Parish & School
1800 S. Katie Ave, Suite #1
Sioux Falls, SD 57106

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
800 FM 1488 Rd.
Hempstead, TX 77445

St. Katharine Drexel Mission
4100 Mill Creek Road
Haymarket, VA 20169

St. Katharine Drexel Parish & School
408 S. Spring Street
Beaver Dam, WI 53916

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
112 West 8th Street
Kaukauna, WI 54130

Katharine Drexel School
409 St. DePorres Street
Broussard, LA 70518

St. Katharine Drexel Prep
5116 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

St. Katharine Drexel School
428 Second Street NE
St. Cloud, MN 56304

Drexel Neumann Academy
1901 Potter Street
Chester, PA 19013

St. Katharine Drexel School
1053 Holland Road
Southampton, PA 18966-0189

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
6077 West Jersey Ave.
Egg Harbor Twnsp, NJ 08234

St. Katharine Drexel Parish
223 East Union St.
Burlington, NJ 08016

St. Katharine Drexel Adoration Chapel 
at St. Katherine of Siena Catholic Church
9700 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA  19114

St. Joseph/Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel is a ‘tiny gem’

By Kristen L. Byrd, Special to The Catholic Virginian / July 6, 2023

Father David Ssentamu and his parishioners end the procession with adoration and Benediction back inside St. Joseph, Columbia, as part of the parish’s ongoing 140th anniversary celebration. (Photo/Melissa Kenney)

Parish shapes ‘several generations of Catholic families’ over last 140 years

Nestled in Fluvanna County, Columbia is a small community of fewer than 100 residents. What it lacks in population it makes up for in congregation, as evident by its beloved Catholic church, St. Joseph/Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel.

St. Joseph has more parishioners than Columbia has residents, with people traveling from outside of Columbia to worship. The church will mark its 140th anniversary in 2024 and is spending all year celebrating the milestone.

Crossbearer James Kenney leads the procession to the outside altar during a procession on June 11 in Columbia. (Photo/Jamie Hicks)

On June 11, the Feast of Corpus Christi, parishioners and visitors participated in a eucharistic procession through the town.

Melissa Kenney has been a parishioner of St. Joseph for 16 years and is also the chair of the Anniversary Committee. “I’ve been Catholic my entire life, and this is by far the most wonderful parish I have been a member of,” she said.

“The two things that make this community special are the people and the history of the parish. The history of the church is truly marvelous; a tiny gem tucked away that truly shaped the lives of several generations of Catholic families,” added Kenney.

Becoming St. Katharine Drexel

Mother Katharine first noticed it while riding a train from Richmond to Lynchburg: a gilded cross peeking out through the trees at a stop in Columbia. She wondered if a Catholic chapel was nearby, though Catholics were scarce in rural Virginia at the turn of the 20th century.

Still, the cross stayed on her mind. Thanks to a chance encounter with a local student, Mother Katharine soon discovered there was a Catholic chapel in Columbia, named Wakeham Chapel, but it was no longer in use.

Father Richard Wakeham had built the chapel in 1884 for his parents, who had had to journey to Richmond for Mass because there was no Catholic church nearby. He celebrated Mass there until he was transferred to Boston in 1892.

When Mother Katharine went to investigate the building, she found a man sweeping the floor. He called himself “Uncle Zeke” and said he cleaned the chapel daily out of respect for Father Wakeham, and he also prayed daily for Mass to return to Columbia. With Mother Katharine’s help, it did.

Katharine Drexel was born a wealthy heiress, the daughter of a prominent banker in Philadelphia. Her family was extremely devout and often gave food, medicine, money, and clothes to those less fortunate.

She was very concerned with the inequality she saw in minority (particularly Native American and African American) communities, especially in terms of children’s limited access to education. In 1878, she traveled to Rome where she implored Pope Leo XIII to send more missionaries to the United States.

He suggested that Katharine become a missionary herself, and, after much thought, she did. She gave up her life of luxury, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891 as an order devoted to social justice causes.

In Columbia, she set up a one-room schoolhouse to educate local Black children. She donated nearly $20 million of her own inheritance to directly fund dozens of other missions and schools across the country.

She also founded Xavier University, the first and only historically Black Catholic university in the United States.

Now Mother Katharine is known as St. Katharine Drexel, patron saint of racial justice and philanthropy, and one of the first saints to be born in the United States. Her impact is still being felt in Columbia and beyond.

Shrine to St. Katharine

Though the chapel was unofficially known as St. Joseph for many years, the name of the chapel officially changed from Wakeham Chapel to St. Joseph’s Chapel in 1939. It remained a mission church until 1967 when the Diocese of Richmond took it over.

Two weeks after St. Katharine was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, former Bishop Walter F. Sullivan renamed the church St. Joseph/Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel, one of only two shrines dedicated to her in the nation.

In honor of St. Katharine’s important place in parish history, a memorial grotto to her was built in 2006 with funds raised by the parish.

Generations of history

St. Joseph’s focus on youth involvement hasn’t waned from St. Katharine’s time. Parents pass the torch of faith down to their children, who later pass it on to their own children. This is one of the reasons why Kenney thinks the church has lasted so long.

“All throughout the history of St. Joseph, children have been a priority: from educating kids at our one-room schoolhouse for nearly 50 years, to our many years of serving the cadets of Fork Union Military Academy, to today,” she said.

“We have children who are active participants as altar servers, ushers, lectors, and cantors,” added Kenney.

Many of St. Joseph’s families have been members for generations, their personal histories intertwined with that of the parish’s.

Missionary Lydia O’Hare Nicholas taught at the schoolhouse for 47 years until it closed in the 1950s. In contrast to St. Katharine, Nicholas was not the daughter of wealthy parents, but of freed slaves.


About 75 St. Joseph parishioners began their first ever Corpus Christi procession down the street from the church as they walk through Columbia. (Photo/Jamie Hicks)

Her descendants are current parishioners of St. Joseph. Nicholas was awarded the Papal Medal of Honor, the highest honor a lay woman can receive from the Vatican.

Black families like O’Hare’s joined St. Joseph at a time when many places were segregated, finding the church a refuge from racism. It remains a diverse parish with parishioners of differing ages and ethnicities.

“It is a small community of people from various underserved people, who know the struggles they had and want to help others in similar situations,” Deacon Robert Allen said.





What Deacon Allen remembers most about joining St. Joseph 12 years ago is how he too was welcomed into the community.

“It is a close-knit parish with a lot of pride in their existence and their willingness to work together as a team in making St. Joseph a welcoming place of worship to whomever enters the doors,” he said.

Deacon Allen also spoke of how important it is for St. Joseph parishioners to know the history of their church and to remember where they came from.

Father David Ssentamu and his parishioners end the procession with adoration and Benediction back inside St. Joseph, Columbia, as part of the parish’s ongoing 140th anniversary celebration.
(Photo/Melissa Kenney)

“I think it’s important, whether for a church or us personally, to know the history, the challenges, the struggles, the good and the bad, that have led us to where we are today,” he said.

St. Joseph’s celebratory year continues until March 2024. Anniversary events include a parish homecoming; a visit to the Wakeham family cemetery; participating in Fluvanna’s Columbia Day celebration; and learning more about the parish’s past from some of its oldest members.

“My hope for the future of the parish is that it continues to survive and thrive,” said Kenney. “My other hope is that people learn the rich history of this parish and continue to hand it down. The 140th anniversary is a great start to that.”

To learn more about St. Joseph, please visit