On the last day of public visitation at the National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel in Bensalem, groups of the faithful came from near and far to visit the site off Route 13 one last time.
The iconic 44-acre Bensalem site that recognizes Philadelphia-born Drexel closed Saturday afternoon and will be sold along with 2,200 acres in Powhatan, Virginia. The new owners of the site have not been announced.
The final days at the shrine drew crowd people who came to recognize Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Catholics came from Bucks County, Philadelphia and beyond to see the shrine.
John Bidey lives in Bristol Township but made the trip out to Bensalem for the shrine’s final day.
“I am very very sad to see it close,” he explained, adding that the shrine has always been a source of comfort for Bidey and he has come to the shrine many times over the years.
“Just coming down here and finding peace and solace is always nice,” said Joseph Lentz, who was traveling to the shrine from Bristol Borough.
Not everyone who visited the shrine had been there previously.
Regina McHugh, Joseph Gleason, Alice Mae Glover and Richard Glover, all originally from Bristol, were visiting the shrine for the first time.
“It’s just unreal,” Alice Mae Glover said. “You can never replace what you see here.”
“You travel all over the world to see these kinds of things and you never take the time to see what is in your own backyard,” Gleason said.
“It’s so heartfelt and overwhelming, just knowing that this was always in our own backyard and we never came and saw it,” McHugh said.
Drexel dedicated her life to helping African-Americans and Native Americans and donated her father’s $15.5 million estate to charity. She grew up seeing her parents aid those in need and was canonized a saint in 2000. She passed away at the age of 96 in 1955.
The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament’s motherhouse is based at the Bensalem site. However, the order has gone from more than 600 members to just 104 Sisters as of 2016. More than half of the order’s Sisters are retired. The Bensalem site is large and features many under utilized buildings.
Drexel’s remains are entombed in a crypt at the shrine and will be transferred to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia early in the new year.