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Sisters of Loretto permanently protect 650 acres in Marion County, Ky.

Posted on January 18, 2023, by Loretto Community

NERINX, KY – The Sisters of Loretto today, Jan. 18, signed an historic agreement with the Bluegrass Land Conservancy to conserve more than 650 acres of the congregation’s nearly 800-acre Loretto Motherhouse property in Nerinx, Ky., through a donated conservation easement. The signed agreement brought to a closure work on a project that began decades ago.

The conserved property lies just north of Loretto, Ky., and has been cared for and farmed by members of the Loretto Community since 1824. The conservation easement held by Bluegrass Land Conservancy will ensure that the land, which surrounds the Motherhouse and is known for its natural beauty and historic significance, remains forever intact thanks to the permanent protections voluntarily put forth by the Sisters of Loretto.

A small waterfall in a spring woods.

“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,” remarked Ashley Greathouse, 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.” 

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

Of this agreement, Loretto President Sister Barbara Nicholas SL said, “The Loretto Community has long been committed to caring for Earth. 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; doing so ensures that these waters, forests, and grasslands will be protected into perpetuity, providing cleaner water and air for all.”

Close-up photo of a field of yellow flowers in bloom.

Loretto Co-member Jessie Rathburn, who serves as the Loretto Community’s Earth Education and Advocacy Coordinator, added, “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 in bringing 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, and 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.”

Bluegrass Land Conservancy works to protect and steward lands critical to agricultural viability and community character in the Bluegrass region through conservation easements.  These 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, thereby ensuring that the state’s unique Bluegrass landscape, soils and water resources are protected for future generations. 

The Loretto Community consists of the congregation of the Sisters of Loretto and Loretto Co-members. The congregation of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross was founded in rural Kentucky in 1812. Today, our Sisters and Co-members continue to live out the Loretto Community’s mission to “work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.” In the United States and throughout the world, Loretto Community members serve in many fields, including education, healthcare, elder care, environmental stewardship and advocacy.

Founded in 1995, Bluegrass Land Conservancy (BLC) became the first land trust in Kentucky to receive the distinction of Accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Land trust accreditation is a national recognition, showing that a land trust meets the highest standard for land conservation. BLC spans a 25-county service area across the greater Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, including: Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Bullitt, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harrison, Henry, Jefferson, Jessamine, Madison, Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Nicholas, Oldham, Owen, Scott, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble, Washington, and Woodford, covering the very best farmland in the Commonwealth. Thanks to increasing community support, BLC has permanently protected over 32,600 acres.


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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!