A hundred and ninety-nine years ago, April 25, 1812, in central Kentucky, the Sisters of Loretto began. Five young women had established a teaching community in two dilapidated log cabins. By day the buildings were a kitchen and school. At night borders slept on the floor of the classroom and the aspirant sisters slept in the loft.
These women, as best we know, were all born in Maryland and moved to Kentucky with their families. To this day, Marion County is a center of Catholic congregations and institutions.
The sisters-to-be petitioned the bishop, through a local priest, Charles Nerinckx, to form a religious community. On this day, April 25, the first three "received the veil" at St. Charles parish church, though they continued to wear their own dresses, being too poor to buy new fabric and the veil may have been a poke bonnet. We don't have photos. On June 29 they elected Ann Rhodes superior. Father Nerinckx said, "You have chosen the youngest," and the sisters responded that "She is the most virtuous." By August they were six.
Since that day, more than 2000 women have been received into Loretto. Today the community consists of about 450 members; a little more than half have canonical vows and the others are co-members. We have a Web site and a Facebook page. What will become of us? We continue to rely on Providence, as did these earliest of our sisters.