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Conservation easement now a reality

Posted on March 1, 2023, by Martha Alderson CoL

Barbara Nicholas signs the agreement as Margaret Graves, Bluegrass Conservancy board chair, prepares to sign.

“For the beauty of the earth, for the splendor of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies.”

Emmanuel Fields, Bluegrass Conservancy staff member, holds the plaque presented to Loretto by the Conservancy.
Photo by Dennis George

The singing of this hymn began a banner day for Loretto, January 18, 2023 — the signing of a conservation easement to protect 654.4 acres of Motherhouse property from any commercial development “in perpetuity.”

In the presence of beautiful photographs and other reminders of nature, there was a stirring ritual that included pouring of pond water, a Litany of Saints, mentions of many Loretto people who have been involved with the years of planning, sharing of personal objects and singing by the group gathered.

The plan for a conservation easement has been in process since the 1980s, and this day it became a reality. In thanking everyone involved Susan Classen recalled I Am the Way by saying, “I’m grateful that the creative Spirit of God brought us into being and continues to call us forth in many ways including through the processes of deciding to conserve this land into perpetuity.”

Jessie Rathburn and Cathy Mueller pour pond water during the ceremony marking the signing of the conservation easement agreement.
Photo by Donna Day

Jessie Rathburn asked all present (including those on Zoom) to recall a place on the Motherhouse grounds, “that tree, that bend in the creek, that field that you know well.” She continued, “Consider the many ways that long before any Sister of Loretto set foot on this property, this land was caring for life.”

During her remarks before signing for Loretto, Barbara Nicholas said, “It is our responsibility to protect our sacred Motherhouse lands; doing so ensures that these waters, forests and grasslands will be protected in perpetuity.” She also recalled that “Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’ that we as humans are not separate from nature and are a part of nature.”

Barbara as president of Loretto and Margaret Graves as Bluegrass Land Conservancy board chair signed the easement agreement in the Church of the Seven Dolors to the great applause of Motherhouse residents and other Community members as well as representatives of the conservancy. Ashley Greathouse, Bluegrass Land Conservancy director of conservation, also spoke about the meaning of the document.

The Motherhouse Church displayed a gorgeous setting of the land. The display photos were taken by Donna Mattingly.
Photo by Amanda Mattingly

Sue Kenney received these comments from Community members:

From Joy Jensen: “I could really feel the spirit especially in the pouring of the water. It is a regeneration of our spirit with the land in a deeper way. We are grieving, but what we give because we die is a birth to something new. Isaiah says, ‘I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?’”

From Marie Ego: “It is an exciting way to honor all that has been done, an honoring of all the pieces and all the people and the land.”

From Kathleen Vonderhaar: “The land is grateful and has a mission. The land gives to us and we can reciprocate and save it from harm.”

And from the readings about Loretto land values: “The land is sacred, providing serenity, health and opportunities to grow and learn. The land itself has a mission and is calling us to respond.”

From the Bluegrass Land Conservancy: “The Loretto Community has paved the way for religious groups in Kentucky, and perhaps nationwide, to protect these significant agricultural and religious resources.”

At the end of the ceremony Barbara received a plaque for the Community proclaiming the land a conservation easement.

Following the ritual, everyone was invited to a reception. What a splendid day!


Martha Alderson CoL

Martha Alderson has been a Loretto Co-member since 1984. She is retired from the publishing industry and more recently from being on the Loretto Community staff as coordinator of co-membership services. She served one term on the first Community Forum. For several years she was an editor and layout person for Interchange (Loretto's internal newsletter) and now edits two issues of that newsletter. At the present she is on the Special Needs Committee and the Motherhouse Coordinating Board. She does the occasional proofreading and editing of Loretto publications.
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