About Kentucky’s Holy Land

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Bardstown · Springfield · Lebanon
Kentucky’s Holy Land


A frontier sees the light Catholics began coming into Kentucky in 1775, settling primarily on the farmland frontier in the heart of the Bluegrass, in the counties of Nelson, Marion and Washington – what would become known as “The Kentucky Holy Land.”


It is where the first priest to have been ordained in America, Stephen Badin, came in 1795 and set up residence at what is today the Sisters of Loretto, followed by Charles Nerinckx and the Dominican friars in 1805, and Benedict Joseph Flaget in 1811. Flaget, the “First Bishop of the West,” came to shepherd the newly designated Diocese of Bardstown – the first inland diocese in the United States and a mega-diocese at that, stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, the Allegheny Mountains to the Mississippi River.

Under Flaget’s influence, a veritable Hallelujah Trail blazed through central Kentucky as other religious establishments took root – many of them the first of their kind in the American West: St. Thomas Seminary; the Sisters of Loretto; the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth; St. Joseph Cathedral at Bardstown; St. Joseph College; St. Mary College; the Dominican Sisters; as well as Kentucky Good Shepherd Sisters, Jesuit Fathers and Trappist monks of Gethsemani Abbey.

Your pilgrimage begins…