The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Tuesday its plans for moving the remains of St. Katharine Drexel from a shrine in Bensalem to a newly constructed tomb in Philadelphia's Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

Archdiocese spokesperson Ken Gavin said the move to Logan Square is expected to occur this summer with the tomb opening to the public sometime in September.

"It is a very involved process, and it is a rare occurrence for something like this to take place," Gavin said.

A rendering of the tomb of St. Katharine Drexel, whose remains will be moved from a Bensalem shrine to the Cathedral Basilica this fall.
Sitio/Archdiocese of Philadelphia
A rendering of the tomb of St. Katharine Drexel, whose remains will be moved from a Bensalem shrine to the Cathedral Basilica this fall.

The remains have been housed at the 44-acre Bensalem estate at 1663 Bristol Pike, which has also been the base of St. Katharine's Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for nearly 130 years.

The order entered into a contract to sell the estate to Bucks County-based Aquinas Realty Partners this year, saying the property had become too large and expensive to maintain. Sheila King, a spokesperson for the order, said the sale and a final price were still pending. Aquinas hopes to turn the property, which dates to the 1890s, into a senior housing complex.

"The process is moving forward. They've been working over the summer to figure out what's going on with the property and what it would take to realize their vision," King said.

The archdiocese announced Tuesday several programs, funded by the Connelly Foundation, to coincide with the transfer of St. Katharine's remains, including school-based lesson plans, a Thanksgiving Mass, and an online and television documentary about her life.

St. Katharine, only the second American-born person to be canonized, will now have a more prominent and public shrine, King said. "It will be right there in the cathedral, so a lot more people will know about her and the order and her work."

St. Katharine died in 1955 and was canonized in 2000. An heiress to a banking family, she gave up a life of privilege to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891. The order has historically helped disadvantaged African Americans and American Indians.

"She's this young socialite flying around Philadelphia, and she decides to do this work … just 25 years after the Emancipation Proclamation," King said.

As of this year, the order had 87 sisters, raging in age from 52 to 97, with a median age of 79. Proceeds from the estate sale will fund charitable work in the United States, Haiti, and Jamaica, and the care of the older sisters.