Dominican Sisters of Peace permanently protect 600 acres in Washington County, KY

St. Catharine, KY – It’s probably one of the most recognizable sights in Washington County, KY. Driving
along Route 150, you see the rolling fields and twin ponds first, then the fruit trees, and finally, a glimpse
of the cross that tops the historic Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse at St. Catharine. Thanks to a
recently completed agreement with the Bluegrass Land Conservancy, this view will remain unchanged
for generations to come. After decades of effort, the Dominican Sisters of Peace have donated the
development rights of the entire 605-acre St. Catharine Farm to a protective easement, where it will
remain unspoiled forever.

Just north of Springfield, KY, St. Catharine Farm has been cared for by the Dominican Sisters of Peace
since 1822, when the first congregation of Dominican women religious in the United States was founded
on the site. The easement held by Bluegrass Land Conservancy will ensure that this land, known for its
natural beauty and historic significance, remains intact thanks to the permanent protections voluntarily
put forth by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace have led the nationwide movement by religious congregations to gift
land back to the communities that they have served beginning with the efforts of the late Sr. Christine
Loughlin, OP, who founded the Religious Lands Conservancy in New England in the early 2000s. The
Congregation has also conserved properties in Louisiana and Massachusetts through partnerships like
the agreement with the Bluegrass Land Conservancy.

In the early 1980’s, the farm community began to implement sustainable land management practices,
including erosion reduction, forest improvement efforts, and actions to preserve wildlife habitat and
diversity. The growth of residential and commercial building in the area moved the Dominican Sisters of
Peace to look for a way to permanently protect St. Catharine Farm. Completing this donation of land
manifests Congregation’ s commitment to treasure and reverence Earth in accordance with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.

“Bluegrass Land Conservancy was so grateful to complete the project on St. Catharine’s Farm in
Washington County in 2022. We have been working with the Sisters for many years to put into place an
agreement that protects the land in perpetuity while allowing the Motherhouse to continue to have
flexibility in their farming practices.” remarked Ashley Greathouse, Director of Conservation. “The Sisters, along with their farm manager, Danny Ray Spalding, are leaders in the farming community
especially as it relates to their sustainable cattle operation. The Sisters at St. Catharine’s have been
trailblazers among the religious communities in Kentucky, and throughout the country, in their
conservation efforts.”

Dominican Sister of Peace Claire McGowan, OP, founder of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, a
local non-profit that seeks to build a sustainability movement in rural central Kentucky, celebrated the
easement. “We rejoice heartily that the sacred land where the Dominican Sisterhood began in the
United States 200 years ago has become a gift to the future – the future of Springfield, of Washington
County, of Kentucky, indeed of the world. By donating the development rights, we have ensured that
the 605 acres known as St. Catharine Farm will never be suffocated by concrete, poisoned by toxic
chemicals, or stripped naked by clear-cutting. Its 120 acres of forests will continue to gift the region with
oxygen and protect wildlife, its pastures will nourish healthy livestock, its bottomlands will provide
vibrant crops of food for humans whose food supply may be diminished by climate change.”
Farm manager Danny Ray Spalding is particularly pleased by the conservation arrangement. Spalding
has partnered with the University of Kentucky to integrate eco-friendly farming and livestock
management practices. “St. Catharine Farm will continue to be a place where farmers can see
sustainable practices in action, and hopefully put them to use as well,” he said.

The conservation easement will preserve the historic view of the Farm as well as protect its large stands
of old growth trees, while permitting allowing the Congregation to continue to use the land and
undertake the limited development compatible with a working farm. It will also protect the site of the
original St. Catharine Convent and school on the banks of Cartwright Creek, which burned to the ground
in 1904.

“We are grateful to the Bluegrass Land Conservancy for helping us create an easement arrangement
that lets us enjoy St. Catharine Farm for the blessing that it is,” said Sr. Pat Twohill, Prioress of the
Dominican Sisters of Peace. “Our Sisters can continue to live at the Motherhouse and our Sansbury Care
center, we can continue to provide food to the local community and service to our neighbors – all the
while knowing that this land that we treasure will be protected long beyond our own lifetimes.”


Dominican Sisters of Peace, members of the Order of Preachers, are vowed Catholic women who strive to share the Gospel of Christ and advance the reign of God through lives of service and peace-making. The Dominican Sisters of Peace are present in 29 dioceses, and Nigeria. The Sisters serve God’s people in many ways, including education, health care, spirituality, pastoral care, prison ministry, the arts, and
care of creation. There are 345 sisters and more than 400 lay associates affiliated with the congregation.
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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