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Seeking Home—Corpus Christi—Mystical Body

Posted on May 29, 2024, by Loretto Community

The Kentucky settlers and the Indigenous Peoples they displaced have a common story—they were almost all refugees, which means for one reason or another they needed to leave where they were living because times were hard.  The Native Peoples had to flee or be killed by the settlers.  The settlers had to move because they needed fertile land for their families.  All of these refugee peoples took everything they had from their homes and walked to Kentucky or away from it to find new land where they could make a safe and healthy living.  Even when they settled, they sometimes had to move more than once to find the right place for their families.  Here is one very small part of the refugee story:

This story is about an unusual group of women. They were daughters of Maryland settlers, young women who came together on the Kentucky frontier in the area some call ‘The Kentucky Holy Land.’  These women committed themselves to teach pioneer children and to live simple religious lives. They named themselves The Friends of Mary Beneath the Cross of Jesus.  They called each other Sister.

Little Loretto sketch copy.jpgAt the beginning, in 1812, the sisters bought land in what then was southern Washington County, near St Charles church—they paid for that land with cash gained from selling a man named Tom.  Later they bought more land nearby.  They named their log cabin compound Little Loretto; their neighbors called them the Sisters of Loretto.

Pencil sketch of Little Loretto in Harding Creek, KY
Drawing of Little Loretto at Harding Creek, KY.
File courtesy of Loretto Archives

In 1824 a group of priests wanted to use the sisters’ land, and the bishop agreed.  The bishop said to the sisters, ‘I want you to trade your land for another place. You must take your school equipment and your students, take all your garden and household things, and go to a place called St. Stephen’s Farm—which Father Stephen Badin abandoned six years ago. 

So the sisters borrowed a lot of wagons and packed up everything.  The last thing they packed was the Blessed Sacrament. They made a pretty place on one of the wagons and had the students walk alongside the wagon as an honor guard.  It was eight miles to St. Stephen’s Farm; it took most of one day to walk over the rough road.  Some neighbors walked with them. It was late November, 1824–cold and cloudy like November days are in Kentucky.

At St. Stephen’s Farm the sisters gradually settled into the few neglected buildings Badin had left behind.  It was a cold winter as they worked together making a new school and a new living space.  They called the place Loretto Motherhouse, because it would be the homeplace for all the sisters of Loretto. Loretto Motherhouse is in the same place today, 200 years later, and sisters still live there. The sisters called themselves The Friends of Mary to help themselves remember the many sorrows of Mary.  When they had to pack everything and leave their home, the sisters remembered the time when Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to save their baby Jesus from King Harrod.  The sisters felt like they were refugees the same as Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  They were carrying the body of Jesus too.  Maybe they also thought of all the people in the world who were refugees.  Maybe they thought of the Cherokee Indians who even then had begun pounding out a Trail of Tears across Kentucky.

Now it is 2024, the 200th anniversary of Loretto’s journey from Little Loretto.  We want to commemorate the journey and to do so we will have a caravan of cars and farm wagons.  We want to recognize the Sorrow of Mary and Joseph fleeing into Egypt with the baby Jesus.  And we want to recognize all the refugees of today, around the world, who have to move from their homes, seeking home in some new place. We will carry the Blessed Sacrament like the Loretto Sisters carried it from Little Loretto to St. Stephen’s Farm.  We are inviting confirmation classes in the ‘Kentucky Holy Land’ to participate and walk or ride as an honor guard for the Blessed Sacrament, just like the Sisters’ students did two hundred years ago.  When our caravan reaches Loretto Motherhouse, we will celebrate Benediction on the steps of the old Academy Building. We will pray that the blessings of the Eucharist will help us understand that we, and all who seek a safe and healthy home, all are the Body of Christ.

View the event flyer here. For further information and to participate, see the event description here.


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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!