Father Charles Nerinckx Comes to Missouri

Apr 12, 2016

Death comes to “The Apostle of Kentucky, 1824.

It seems like almost yesterday that Father Charles Nerinckx arrived in the United States from Belgium. 

It was the autumn of 1804 and Father Nerinckx, was appointed by Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, Maryland to assist Father Stephen Badin in establishing the Catholic Church on the Kentucky Frontier. On July 18, 1805, Father Nerinckx arrived at “St. Stephen’s farm” south of Louisville where he met Father Badin.  

For seven years these two priests represented the Catholic Church in Kentucky, and later when Father Badin left for another assignment Father Nerinckx was responsible for the entire state.  During his nineteen years on the Kentucky frontier, Father Nerinckx built fourteen churches, a remarkable achievement for which he became known as “the Apostle of Kentucky.” 

But of all his accomplishments, he’s most well known for his 1812 establishment of a convent for women, the first order of nuns founded in America, “The Sisters of Loretto,” officially “the Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross,” continue to work, to this day, from their “mother house” in “Nerinx,” Kentucky. Father Nerinckx sought to extend the church beyond Kentucky and sent the sisters of Loretto to Perryville, Missouri to establish schools for young women especially Native-American women.

In 1824 Father Nerinckx came to Missouri and met an Indian leader who agreed to send women of his tribe to Perryville for education by the sisters of Loretto. But, on the ride form St. Louis back to St. Genevieve, Father Nerinckx became ill, and on August 12, 1824 at the age of 63, “the Apostle of Kentucky” died in St. Genevieve, Missouri.

It seems like almost yesterday…