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Abraham J. Emerick, SJ, collection

Identifier: GTM-180101

Collection level scope and contents note

Father Abraham J. Emerick, S.J., [1856 - 1931] served as a missionary in Jamaica and pastor of various missions in St. Mary's County, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The A. J. Emerick Collection consists of correspondence referring to his activities as a Jamaica missionary as well as pastor of the Mission of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, which was supported by the Blessed Sacrament Sisters for Indians and Colored People. Most of the correspondence in the collection (38 letters) is from Mother Mary Katharine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Correspondence from various sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (especially Sisters Mary Francis Xavier, Mary John, and Mary Mercedes) comprises the first five folders of the collection, since most of the sisters are known only by their first names. This correspondence briefly refers to Father Emerick's missionary work in Jamaica and his term as pastor of the Mission of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia as well as some of the work of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in various missions. The following correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name. Mother Drexel's correspondence regards Father Emerick's work in Jamaica and at the Mission. Her letters provide a good idea of the type of work Emerick was doing as he established schools, catechized people, and attempted to establish churches. Mother Drexel supported some of this work financially, and it is this work which is most often discussed. Most of the letters refer to the establishment of the Mission of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, plans for a proposed financial agreement between the St. Ignatius Religious and Missionary Society of Pennsylvania and Mother Katharine regarding a church for the mission, and the eventual transfer of the mission to the Holy Ghost Fathers.

Although very few of Father Emerick's letters to Mother Drexel are part of this collection, his correspondence to her and commentary on her correspondence is reproduced in the Woodstock Letters (Volumes 42 and 43). Other correspondence in the collection concerns the transfer of the Mission of Our Lady to the Holy Ghost Fathers. Mother Katharine Drexel's letters are also important because they show us glimpses of her kindness, piety, and devotion to helping others. Correspondence from Mother Drexel may also be found in Father LaFarge's Papers, which are also held at Georgetown University's Special Collections Division.


  • 1890-1917

Conditions Governing Access note

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical notes

Mother Katharine Drexel was born on November 26, 1858, to Francis Anthony and Hannah (Langstroth) Drexel. Francis Drexel, a very successful banker and a noted philanthropist, and his two brothers ran the house of Drexel & Co., founded by his father, and assisted in its phenomenal growth. Hannah Drexel died when Katharine was still an infant, and two years later, Francis Drexel married Emma Bouvier. Francis and Hannah Drexel had two daughters, Katharine and Elizabeth [later Mrs. Walter George Smith]. Francis also had a third daughter, Louise [later Mrs. Edward Morrell], with his second wife, Emma.

After the deaths of Francis and Emma Drexel in 1883 and 1885, respectively, Katharine and her sisters inherited a considerable fortune. During a visit to Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to recommend a religious order which worked with Indians and Blacks so that she could donate part of her fortune to their work. He challenged her to become a missionary herself, and she responded by beginning a novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy of Pittsburgh, Pa., and then forming the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People in 1891.

She used her huge fortune to assist missions and schools in Jamaica, Arizona, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois and other areas. Through her tireless efforts, she began more than forty-nine missions throughout the US. She also established Xavier University in New Orleans, La. During her last few years, as an invalid, she devoted herself to prayer until her death on March 3, 1955. During her lifetime, she had spent more than $12 million on assistance for Native and Black Americans. Her undying charity was recognized by the Catholic Church when she was recently canonized.


Father Abraham J. Emerick's life was also an example of untiring devotion and religious zeal. He was born on November 20, 1856, and began to study for the priesthood on November 7, 1876. He spent much of his early years as a priest as a missionary in Jamaica, where he helped build schools and churches. He applied to Mother Drexel for help in financing some of his projects, and thus their lifelong friendship began. She assisted him with many projects, including establising a hat factory where young girls could earn decent wages and avoid a life of suffering and sin. She also contacted him when she wished to start a Mission of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia for blacks to congregate and worship. He ran this mission from October 1907 until May, 1909, when Archbishop Ryan indicated that he wished the Holy Ghost Fathers to take over the mission and proposed church. Father Emerick, S.J., in selecting a site for the mission, had insisted that it be located on Broad Street, in the center of Philadelphia, rather than in some forgotten side street. He also began successful clubs for the members of his mission which allowed them autonomy in decisions as well as finances.

After leaving the Mission of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Father Emerick spent most of his time catechizing and building schools and churches in St. Mary's County, Maryland. He served as pastor at St. Ingoes', St. Michael's, St. George's, St. Francis Xavier's, and St. Peter Claver's from 1910 - 1923. He also helped Father John LaFarge, S.J., and Father James Brent Matthews, S.J., erect the Church of St. James in 1915, and start four schools in 1916 and 1917. He also built a second church at St. Peter Claver's in 1918. He died on February 4, 1931. Additional information can be found on Father A. J. Emerick , S.J., in the Woodstock Letters and in histories of St. Mary's County, Maryland. Throughout his life, his "zeal and self-sacrifice...[his] love and devotion" impressed all who knew him. [Mother M. Katharine Drexel, Letters dated 11/04/1905 and 12/ 02/1906]


0.5 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger Document case)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Fr. Abraham J. Emerick, S.J., 1918.

Abraham J. Emerick, SJ, collection
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository