Loretto’s motherhouse is located in Nerinx, Kentucky, about 60 miles from Louisville. A working farm and place of extraordinary natural beauty and historical buildings, it is the residence of active and retired members.
The Motherhouse has a long history. In the early years, it was named St. Stephen’s Farm by Father Stephen Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States, who lived there from 1796 to 1819. The Badin House, erected by Father Badin in 1816, was the first brick house in Marion County and is still in use.
The founding Sisters of Loretto moved from St. Charles, Kentucky, to this location in 1824. The first school building, Loretto Academy, was built in 1832 and was used as a school until 1888 when the larger academy building was built. Loretto Academy flourished until 1918 when the school was closed. Both buildings are still in use, the first as Rhodes Hall, an art studio and gallery, and the other as a residence, offices, the archives, and part of Knobs Haven Retreat Center.
Father Charles Nerinckx, the clerical founder for the Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross, lived at St. Charles from 1812 until 1824 and moved to the present Motherhouse location in 1824. One half of his cabin which he built was brought to the Motherhouse from Little Loretto at St. Charles in 1895.
Other historic buildings include the Church of the Seven Dolors which was rebuilt during the Civil War (1860-1863) after fire destroyed the original building and the Auditorium (1886) which is currently being renovated into a new Heritage Center and Archives. St. Joseph Infirmary (1947) is home for retired and ill Loretto members.
The Stations of the Seven Dolors (1911), a large outdoor set, flank the sidewalk approach to the Cemetery where Charles Nerinckx, Mary Rhodes, Ann Havern, and Christina Stuart are buried as well as hundreds of Lorettos. The Slave Memorial honors those slaves brought to the Motherhouse as part of the dowries of novices. At the crest of a hill is the AIDS Garden, a memorial to persons who have died of AIDS. It is both a tribute and a reminder to work for justice and act for peace in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
Since 1998, Loretto has been working on a plan for the farm including a Forest Stewardship Plan, increasing wildlife habitats, soil restoration, sustainable agriculture, and identifying areas of ecological significance. Three thousand trees and shrubs were planted to form a Riparian Buffer to rebuild eroded areas, 300 pines were planted to augment the woodlands, native grasses were planted to improve habitats of wildlife, and areas have been set aside for wildlife habitats and natural wetlands.