Book tells story of St. Thomas parish

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz entered the historic St. Thomas Church in Bardstown, Ky., during the parish’s bicentennial celebration July 1, 2012.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz entered the historic St. Thomas Church in Bardstown, Ky., during the parish’s bicentennial celebration July 1, 2012.

Two-hundred-year-old St. Thomas Church in Bardstown, Ky., figures prominently in the history of the Archdiocese of Louisville. It was the home of the diocese’s first bishop. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were founded there, as was the diocese’s first seminary. Many books have been written on these subjects.

Little attention has been paid, however, to the parish and its parishioners who worked behind the scenes as the archdiocese’s history unfolded. A new book, created for the bicentennial of St. Thomas, is dedicated to their story.

Heritage of Faith — History of St. Thomas 1812-2012 is being printed now. It includes about 300 pages of history in a coffee-table style book and features about 250 photographs.

Members of the parish book committee said the work is intended to celebrate the parish’s long history.

“It’s a beautiful church,” said Ken Shelver, the chair of the parish council. “We’ve been here for so long and we felt like we wanted to celebrate that.”

Linda Lewis, the director of the lifelong formation at St. Thomas, said she wanted the book to be published, in part, “so that young parishioners will not lose the sense of what it is to be Catholic and the sacrifices their ancestors made to have a Catholic presence in Nelson County.”

Gilly Simpson — a descendant of early Catholic settlers in central Kentucky — researched and wrote the text. He became interested in parish histories a few years ago when he looked into the history of his own parish, St. Michael Church in Fairfield, Ky.

He said he was assisted in the process by several people who know a great deal about the early history of the archdiocese. Among them are Fathers Steve Pohl and Ben Brown, both former pastors of St. Thomas, and Sister of Charity of Nazareth Mary Ellen Doyle.

They helped him to piece together the parish’s history, he said, as did the many books already written about the parish’s major developments.

“There are books about (Bishop Benedict Joseph) Flaget, Mother Catharine (Spalding) and there are also books about the seminary and Sisters of Charity,” he noted. “While I do touch on those, the topic that’s never been broached is the parish and the people who were the parishioners.

“They helped build the buildings, they helped the Sisters of Charity. They were helping as all these things were going on,” he said, adding, “Any parish is only as good as its people.”

Heritage of Faith — History of St. Thomas 1812-2012 will be available for $30. Mail orders may be sent to St. Thomas Parish, 870 St. Thomas Lane, Bardstown, Ky., 40004, along with $5 for shipping.

For more information, call the parish at 502-348-3717.

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