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Loretto protects generous swath of land at the Motherhouse in Kentucky

Posted on June 19, 2023, by Loretto Community

The Loretto Community has long been committed to caring for Earth

Barbara Nicholas SL, president of the Loretto Community
Dogwood blossoms

The Loretto Community has entered into an agreement with Bluegrass Land Conservancy to conserve more than 650 acres of land at the Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky. The conservancy will steward the land, ensuring that it remains protected. This is a step that has been in the making for decades.

Barbara Nicholas SL, president of Loretto, signed the agreement on Jan. 18. She said, “Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’ that we as humans are not separate from nature but are part of nature. Our commitment to peace and justice not only extends to Earth but is rooted in our understanding that we are of Earth. It is our responsibility to protect our sacred Motherhouse lands ….”

Clouds glow pink and orange in a navy sky, as a house and trees are silhouetted against the fading glow of dusk.
The Motherhouse farm at dusk.
Photo by Christina Manweller

For more than four decades, the Loretto Community has been implementing conservation practices on the property. Completing the conservation easement has been a long-term objective and complements the three goals that have guided the conservation work: to protect undisturbed spaces, to regenerate degraded spaces and to mitigate and reduce carbon emissions. Important factors in the sisters’ decision to create this significant conservation easement included maintaining the Motherhouse Farm’s open and scenic beauty and agricultural uses; protecting the property from new residential and commercial structures that would substantially interfere with its woodlands, watersheds, streams, farmland and its scenic, open rural character; and protecting the congregation’s working farmland in perpetuity.

Loretto Community’s Earth Education and Advocacy Coordinator, Jessie Rathburn CoL, said, “Across the country, farmland is being lost to development at an alarming rate. Biodiversity is decreasing, waterways are being contaminated and wildlife corridors are being broken up. The Loretto Community not only values ecological health and regeneration, but understands that we have a role to play inbringing about healing to this larger system. Protecting our Motherhouse farmland not only ensures an agricultural future for these lands, but contributes to healthy soils, forests and watersheds; it also provides habitat for many species. Establishing a conservation easement on our property is one more tangible step the Loretto Community is taking toward land justice: ensuring that the many other species who know this land as home — the trees, grasses, birds, wildlife, fish, salamanders, turtles and more — will be protected and nurtured by this land in perpetuity.”

… the world is God’s loving gift.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ #220

“Bluegrass Land Conservancy is so grateful to work with this incredible group of sisters to conserve this important, historic land area known as Loretto Motherhouse Farm,” said Ashley Greathouse, the conservancy’s director of conservation. “The Loretto Community has paved the way for religious groups in Kentucky, and perhaps nationwide, to protect these significant agricultural and religious resources. We have learned so much about the sisters’ culture of conservation and sustainability during this process and we look forward to a long relationship with the sisters as we steward the Loretto Motherhouse Farm in perpetuity.”

Bluegrass Land Conservancy works to protect lands critical to agricultural viability and community character in the bluegrass region through conservation easements. The easements are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and the conservancy individually tailored to the landowner’s objectives and property to conserve the land for agricultural and other open-space activities. This helps ensure that the state’s unique bluegrass landscape, soils and water resources are protected for future generations.

Close-up photo of a field of yellow flowers in bloom.
The Motherhouse Farm abounds with nature’s glory: Beggarticks (Bidens frondosa) lift their faces to the sun.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

To read all the articles in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.


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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!