St. Joseph’s/Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel in Columbia is probably the only church in the Diocese of Richmond located in a town with fewer than 50 people! Columbia is a rural town located at the confluence of the James and Rivanna Rivers where three counties — Fluvanna, Cumberland and Goochland — join together. It is 52 miles west of Richmond and 22 miles southeast of Charlottesville.
The white frame church, which sits on a hill, is 137 years old, founded in 1884 by the Wakeham family. Mass is held every Sunday at 9am, with coffee and treats each week immediately afterwards in the parish hall.
St. Joseph’s is the “parent” parish for Saint’s Peter & Paul, located in Palmyra, VA. We have a rich history, including ties to Saint Katharine Drexel. Mother Katharine Drexel, who had been a member of a wealthy Philadelphia family, became a nun and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Black and Native American peoples. She discovered our little chapel in 1901 and was subsequently instrumental in having Mass celebrated there for African Americans and other area Catholics. The parish was faithfully served by the Josephite order until the 1967s, when it came under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Richmond. The parish was named a national shrine to her by Bishop Emeritus Walter F. Sullivan on October 15, 2000. Our grotto, featuring a statue of St. Katharine Drexel with two children, was dedicated on December 17, 2006.
Read the beautiful story of St. Joseph’s parish and Katherine Drexel here on our History Page.