From its rolling hills, to its well worn winding walking paths, to the many fish filled ponds, Nazareth Campus is a place to relax and find peace.
This beautiful sacred piece of land, about 245 acres, is home to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Standing on the campus one can imagine what it must have looked like in the early 1800s when Mother Catherine Spalding, the Congregation’s foundress, arrived on a horse drawn wagon. From the very beginning Nazareth was a place of welcome.
The tradition of offering hospitality and sharing SCN resources continues today. From Nazareth Villages, home to the elderly and disabled, to Saint Joseph Montessori Children’s Center, to SCN community gardens, to the walkers and folks fishing, to those making a retreat in search of peace and beauty, the campus always brings joy and comfort to others.
Nazareth Villages, home to over 152 residents, is a prime example of how the Sisters are ever mindful of the needs of the times. What at one time was living and meeting space for students at Nazareth College was transformed into charming affordable housing for the elderly and disabled. A recent editorial in the Kentucky Standard highlighting the 30th anniversary of Nazareth Villages paid tribute to this SCN ministry.
When it became apparent in the late 1960s that Nazareth College would not be able to survive as a separate entity the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth faced the dilemma of how to utilize resources to maximize its mission.
Moth balling facilities such as the nearly new dorm building did not seem like a good long-term answer. A visionary solution slowly evolved that later flowered into the conversion of the dorm into what would become Nazareth Village. It is now known as “Village I” to differentiate it from “Village II” which followed a decade later. The dorm building was perfect for a conversion to small apartments and there was plenty of common space …
Calling this year a celebration of recycling, the editorial goes on to recognize the commitment of the SCNs to be good stewards.
The footprint the Sisters of Charity impart to their home community must be measured by more than bricks and mortar but the operation of Nazareth Villages I and II is certainly one of the more tangible ways the order has impacted the quality of life for Bardstown and Nelson County. It is a legacy well worth celebrating.
Nazareth Villages has won numerous awards for outreach efforts and is just one of many examples of how SCNs find creative ways to transform ministries, changing with the times so that the most critical needs are addressed. There are also many examples of the Congregation letting go of a ministry in order for it to continue and thrive with the help of other organizations.
Such is the case with Saint Joseph Montessori Children’s Center, formerly Nazareth Montessori Children’s Center, started by Patricia Hill, SCN. Faced with the reality that there were fewer Sisters available to work in the Montessori program and enrollment numbers were shifting, Saint Joseph Parish offered to take over and open new doors for this ministry. Still located on the Nazareth campus, the collaboration has proven successful and Sister Pat remains a strong presence in the classrooms. The outstanding reputation of this educational facility continues to grow as do the opportunities to interact with the many generations living on campus. Students can also be found exploring the abundant trees, plants, and wildlife surrounding them.
One of the more remarkable features of Nazareth campus is how the Sisters carry out their efforts to care for the earth. Where Russell Hall once stood, a beautiful landscape now welcomes visitors. The building, which had structural problems, was carefully deconstructed with an emphasis placed on making sure to recycle as much of the building and its contents as possible. Many items from Russell Hall were given to new homes from stained glass windows donated to area chapels to beds sent to shelters for the homeless. Though Catherine Spalding Retreat Center has closed, the ministry of spirituality itself continues with private and directed retreats being offered on campus.
Mary’s Garden, with the focal point of the Lourdes Shrine, offers a prayerful spot for campus visitors. The garden is maintained by the loving care of campus employees and the careful eye of Rita Spalding, SCN, who spends many visits tending the garden which honors her sister, Mary Acquin Spalding Schneider, who lives in Atlanta, Ga. Dedicated in November of last year, it is a tribute to Mary from her husband and four children. It features a myriad of plants as well as benches and stations to pray the mysteries of the rosary.
With so many beautiful plants and majestic trees on campus, visitors often ask “how does the campus stay so lush?” As members of the SCN family work to carry out the commitment to care for the earth, they are ever mindful of natural resources. Water from the many ponds on campus is used to nurture the plants. There is also a campus-wide commitment to conservation and recycling. Residents conserve water when taking showers, cooking, and cleaning. Cardboard, aluminum, and paper products are collected and recycled. Members of the SCN family also conserve energy in a number of ways including the use of energy efficient light bulbs and the good old fashioned hanging of laundry on lines to dry.
And this year, new efforts to share the earth and reach out to others, folks were invited to plant a community garden at Nazareth. It was an especially touching initiative as so many have been dealing with tough times triggered by a rocky economy. The gardens yielded a bounty of tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables.
No matter where SCN family members come together to minister, they strive to share their resources, ever mindful of walking in the footsteps of Mother Catherine and her legacy at Nazareth, where the early seeds of charity were planted.
To many, Nazareth campus is a place of unparalleled beauty, a place to retreat. Over the years, photographer and SCN Associate, Trudi Maish, has captured the changing of the seasons on campus from spectacular sunsets, to the campus enshrouded in fog, to deer gathered among the tombstones in the cemetery. An accomplished photographer, her photos offer a glimpse of the peace and beauty that is Nazareth, Ky.