High Dimension

Where St. Katharine rolled, a cancer center rises in northeast Phila. – Catholic Philly

When young Katherine Drexel galloped her horse through the fields surrounding her family’s summer home in the countryside of what is now the Torresdale section of Philadelphia, she could not have imagined helicopters landing and Ambulances rush down the driveways dug into these same grounds.

In the late 1800s, medical miracles were rare and the technology that could have prevented the death of his beloved mother-in-law from cancer today did not exist. Heiress of her father Francis Drexel, the banking fortune and her position in society did not spare her the limits of medicine at the end of the 19th century.

But Katharine Drexel’s future does not lie in wealth and high society. Her experiences helping her mother distribute food to the poor in downtown Philadelphia and her travels to the Southwest United States to witness the deprivations of Native Americans led her to spend 64 years and $20 million of her legacy as the founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Colored and Indian Peoples.

Its mission was to preach the gospel and educate blacks and Native Americans to prepare them to take their place in American society. She once scoffed at a friend’s suggestion that she would surely be called a “saint.”

But in 2000, his work and the recognition by the Church of two miracles attributed to his intercession led to his canonization in Rome by the pope, who became Saint John Paul II.

The proximity of the Level 1 trauma center and a future saint’s summer retreat represents the not-so-blurred line of two types of miracles.

Richard Galup, president of Jefferson Health-Northeast.

Richard Galup, president of Jefferson Health-Northeast – the health system comprising Torresdale, Frankford and Bucks hospitals), lives, in a way, in both worlds. His office and other administrative offices located in the former Drexel mansion are reminders of a very special history accompanying a future full of promise.

For example, Galup can look back with pride at the new Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, which opened just over a year ago and offers state-of-the-art technology suitable for all types of cancer.

Galup is proud that the Kimmel Center’s rigorous standards for science and patient care have qualified the center as one of 71 National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Centers nationwide.

Plans are also in place for the construction of a new building to provide proton therapy, a radiation therapy procedure that targets tumors while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue and limiting long-term effects.

“My father passed away from cancer in 2016 and my mother always prayed to Saint Katharine Drexel,” Galup said. “I believe I was put here for a reason, and that was so I could build this cancer center in Torresdale.”

The science and simplicity of prayer add a modern dimension of hope, as seen in community members who, due to COVID restrictions, stand outside St. Michael’s Chapel offering their petitions for themselves or for their loved ones, Galup said.


Learn more about hospital system care here: Miracles of Medical Science and the Divine Happen in Torresdale