Documents from La Milagrosa Chapel

In researching this article, I visited the Catholic Historical Research Center at 6740 Roosevelt Boulevard. There were three written documents in the archives, and I reproduce them here since there didn't seem to be digital reproductions anywhere. Thanks to archivist Patrick Shank for digging out these documents and to Paulette Mican for the tour of the Miraculous Medal Shrine.

The first is a letter from Vincentian order priest Antonio Casulleras to his higher ups, written in 1909. He outlines the argument for supporting a Spanish-speaking priest for the "Spanish Colony" of Philadelphia. He states there are about 1000 Spanish-speaking inhabitants of Philadelphia, but the number was probably closer to 6000 in a city population of 1.5 million. 

In the pamphlet below, published in 1910, Casulleras outlines the progress made in his ministry to the Spanish-speaking Catholics of Philadelphia, and makes a plea for a separate chapel as a home for the parish. In 1910 the Spanish-language services were being held at St. Mary's Church in Old City. 

The final document is basically a real-estate contract from 1912 signed by Katherine Drexel. In it she outlines the conditions for her grant of $1080 for the purchase of the building at 1903 Spring Garden Street. 

Catharine Drexel, was 31 when her banker father died in 1885, and he left $15.5 million in his estate to generate income to be divided among his three daughters. Six years later, Catherine decided to become a nun and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, taking the name Mother Katherine and using the income from the estate to fund the building of the mother house in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. She died in 1955 at age 96, and was buried under the altar of the church at the mother house. She was canonized, or declared a saint, in 2000, with a feast day of March 3. When the mother house was sold in 2016, her remains were removed and transferred to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, not far from Baldwin Park, in November 2018.

Tomb of Saint Katherine Drexel at the Cathedral. The altar in her honor is not pictured but is just to the right of the tomb.

Tomb of Saint Katherine Drexel at the Cathedral, close up.

authored by Joe Walsh, February 2019

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