Skip to content

Sisters of Corruption of Nazareth

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth is an order of nuns that was founded in scenic Bardstown, Kentucky in 1812. Bardstown has roots deeply entrenched in Roman-Catholicism, as the town also features what is arguably the oldest Catholic Cathedral in America outside of the original thirteen colonies, the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral. While the admittedly beautiful campus of the SCNs has hosted the order’s bicentennial in recent years, Mother Catherine Spalding, co-founder of the congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, was at last rewarded posthumously with a statue in nearby Louisville, the first statue of a female in the city.

Which is all well and good, as Spalding in her time founded several schools, orphanages and hospitals. Under her leadership the order of SCNs thrived, and in a time where there were no social services to be found in the Kentucky settlements. States her Wikipedia entry:

Mother Catherine’s legacy is embodied in her Sisters, which is international now in membership and in ministries of education, care of the sick, impoverished, and orphan, and in advocacy groups for social justice in five nations of North America, Asia, and Africa. Mother Catherine has been called the founder of social work in Kentucky.

What she helped to build, in truth, no longer continues. The motto of the SCNs is “Caritas Christi Urget Nos” (The Love of Christ Impels Us). Yet to see what the order has become should prompt concerned citizens to call out in return, as in the Exorcist film, “The power of Christ compels you!” Because something is rotten in the air, and it is not the mash of the local bourbon distilleries. The state of ever-dwindling numbers of nuns within the order is itself suggestive of the fact that what the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were, and what they are today, are shamefully two starkly different creatures, ideologies and all. Count the new cars in their parking lot. While many orders of nuns have in recent decades embraced certain liberal inclinations, from rarely wearing the habits once considered mandatory, to engaging actively in non-religious social causes, the modern Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have proven themselves to be every bit as corrupted as the mafia. Nobody sees this unfortunately, as the Sisters prefer all eyes look to history than to today.

Like many small towns across the American Bible-belt, Bardstown is comprised primarily of several sizable family trees. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any family within Nelson County limits that holds no connection to the order, and my own family positively shares quite a few.

One of the first jobs held by my father soon after his marriage to my mother was on the Nazareth campus. I have one maternal aunt who previously worked as a housekeeper for the nuns, and another who lived some of her final months at Nazareth Villages, a retirement community located on the Nazareth campus, owned and operated by the SCNs themselves. One of that aunt’s sons has himself lived and worked at Nazareth Villages. I have a laundry list of cousins who were heavily involved in the remodeling of the mother-house, the main building of the campus. And my own mother moved onto the Nazareth property in the middle of 1999. In the years since, in spite of very minimal resources and declining health, she organized over a dozen Christmas parties for her fellow residents of the Nazareth Villages. After serving a stint on the Nazareth Villages Resident Association, in January of 2014 she was duly elected President of that body. Yet in May of the following year she was forced to leave, both her Presidential position, and her home of 16 years. She was not the first Resident Association President pushed away.

In the time that she resided there I was not always living in the area. Often I was not even in this part of the country. Of course I would visit whenever passing through, and as of a few years ago, once deciding to lay down roots of my own here I began proactively volunteering at Nazareth Villages. I quickly saw enough first-hand to know that not many of the old-timers at Nazareth Villages had any family or friends left of their own, so should they require assistance with anything there was simply nobody to ask, certainly not the residential staff. Especially in the final years that my mother resided there, the residents were plagued with growing concerns regarding the office staff, the Nazareth Villages Board of Directors, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth themselves. These concerns were enough to compel my mother to relocate out of town, and they were enough to turn my stomach.

I have repeatedly tried to attract regional journalists to look into this story, as I fully realized that should I voice publicly the issues myself it would be hard to effectively convey such matters while avoiding subjectivity. Yet because of the familial connections inside of this community, virtually all locals see the SCNs either of two ways: They are still enthralled by what the order formerly accomplished, unaware of the dividing line between then and now; or they are outright intimidated by the current SCNs in charge. An older acquaintance who has written for a number of regional periodicals over the years once confirmed to me a long-standing practice maintained by editors of many news desks in the area, that should a story ever come along that even remotely involves the SCNs, it is forwarded to a specific office on the Nazareth campus for approval, with blatant editing and rewriting by the nuns themselves. The SCNs are a verifiable backbone of this community in many ways, wielding much authority, but that trust was built by nuns who passed away of old age many long decades ago.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth today have become fundamentally corrupted, and are guilty of a great many grievances ethically, morally, and legally. As with the Spalding statue, the SCNs are receiving much positive publicity right now, but for things the current nuns would never be capable of. And considering the patterns of abuse and rampant victimization which the current body of nuns are both creating and enabling, this is a travesty of justice. I realize there will be retaliation against my family, and for that reason alone I did not want to be the one to tell this story. However, as the current Sisters have nurtured an environment of spineless, unquestioning subservience evidently throughout my region, and as the residents of Nazareth Villages past and present have nobody else to speak up for them, I am obliged to do what is right.

Inside the mother-house for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth is a small museum, and inside that museum, kept in climate-controlled storage, is a hand-written letter from Abraham Lincoln. Penned during the Civil War, the missive is an order for Union troops to stand down, as they had been launching raids in the area over the Sisters of the day treating wounded from both sides of the conflict.

The present-day Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have sadly strayed far from the neutrality of their historical counterparts. They showcase their history with pride, while spin-doctoring their current activities and sweeping under the proverbial rug anything that might cast them even remotely in a negative lighting. The rental properties comprising the Nazareth Villages I and II, though only a few decades old, are a prime example of this.

The last Director (think: Apartment Manager) to serve a lengthy time in office was Sister Anne, who eventually stepped down after overseeing the office for longer than a dozen years. Her departure was in relation to her mental and physical health, but while she is respected and loved by numerous residents and staff members to this day, she herself was culpable of certain acts which openly violated HUD (Housing and Urban Development) regulations. The most blatant was initiating the illegal practice of having the Resident Association sign over blank checks for her to spend as she alone saw fit.

The Nazareth Villages Resident Association is somewhat similar to a student government with residents voting for one another, although under HUD regulations it exists specifically to give the residents a voice, very much like a union, serving as a middle-man between residents and the office staff. For the sake of both efficiency and simplicity, Sister Anne would hand-pick candidates from among the residents to serve on the Association, something that goes against HUD regulations. Having had many diverse interactions myself with her over the years I doubt this was ever done maliciously, as Sister Anne was merely a perfectionist, and possibly did not fully understand how HUD works. Among other activities, the Resident Association would host various fund-raising events, with proceeds generally going towards holiday meals and the like, to be shared by the community at large. To process these funds, the Association held its own bank account, entirely separate of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth or the Nazareth Villages. This is a key point.

After Sister Anne left her position, a secular woman named Nora Ballard was hired as replacement. However, due to the kinds of minor misunderstandings that arise from a great many residents having long-grown accustomed to living under Sister Anne’s thumb, Ms Ballard was compelled to leave prematurely, after working for the Sisters roughly a year. Her replacement, who is the current Director, was another secular woman, named Vicki Ward. Despite having been terminated from at least three previous employers, and in spite of having wholly inadequate administrative experience for such a position, she was hired to oversee the lives of the Nazareth Villages residents. With literally no office or management experience, why was she hired? She had been a close friend to a man named Tiger Huston since well before their current respective marriages. Huston is on the Board of Directors for the Nazareth Villages, and he happens to be the Senior Vice President for Wilson & Muir Bank, the same bank where the Nazareth Villages Resident Association keeps its account. Another key point.

On a related side-note, Huston’s father served as President of St. Catharine College in nearby Springfield for 18 years, until his rampant misuse of U.S. Department of Education funds caught up with him, prompting both his removal as well as permanent closure of the school itself.

After my mother was elected President of the Nazareth Villages Resident Association in January of 2014, she quickly became aware of that questionable practice of leaving unsigned checks with the office. A prolonged and tiresome battle ensued. After Ward used the last of the signed blank checks in her possession to spend over 700 dollars, purportedly for the Thanksgiving dinner of 2014, she refused to share any of the receipts. The Resident Association went to their bank for statements covering those and other, previous expenditures. They were denied, and their account was frozen. We know this as verified by two separate Wilson & Muir employees, each of whom stated the orders came from Huston himself. Eventually some statements were released, but with huge gaps and quite a lot of dollars unaccounted for, going back years.

For perspective, while the Nazareth Villages office organized some events, such as the Christmas dinner generally held several weeks prior to the holiday so that when the actual day comes the staff can be on vacation while residents sit lonely in their apartments (hence, the Christmas parties organized by my mom and her own resources), the Resident Association organized a great many more events, averaging far better turnouts than the few official activities and usually costing dramatically less thanks in part to cooperation from local church youth groups and donations provided by the nearby monks of Gethsemani. Relationships cultivated not by the office or the SCNs, but by the Resident Association. These activities were self-funded, with any excess applied towards raffles and door prizes at whatever next gathering.

The complete lack of any accountability or transparency from the office is not at all negligible, obviously. But it gets worse. When Nora Ballard was made to leave, Sister Anne herself suggested her own assistant of 17 years, Michelle Jones, as replacement. Serving as the Assistant Director for so long would logically make her the ideal candidate. This was turned down entirely due to Huston’s wanting to hook up his old friend Vicki Ward with the Director position. Shortly after Ward took over the office, Jones went to her superior, a Sister Michelle (a different Michelle, and the nun directly purposed with overseeing the Nazareth Villages rentals) to voice her concerns over the blatant incompetence of the new Director, such as the grossly extended lunch breaks which resulted in far more work for Jones to do solo. Jones earnestly did not want the Director position herself, but knew what it required and cared for the well-being of the residents enough to see how poisonous Ward was for the role. And there she was, having to perform the duties regardless.

Sister Michelle’s response was to fire Jones on the spot, followed by lying to the residents over the reasons for her departure.

In the summer of 2014, the residents of Nazareth Villages II put together a petition, with 39 of the then-41 residents signing in agreement. (Nazareth Villages I, on the same grounds and under the same leadership, holds about four times as many residents, but as the office is located in their building they are obliged to walk the line more closely.) The petition was Village II’s attempt at voicing concerns over multiple issues, all directly related to Vicki Ward’s administration. Such as discontinuing Saturday mail delivery altogether so that the staff could take an extra day off each week, as though coming in late and/or leaving early every single day wasn’t enough. And forbidding residents from volunteering their own time and resources to work in the many gardens on the property, which saved money on landscaping fees, but because the residents enjoyed it Ward would not allow it. Sister Michelle’s response was to tear up the petition, telling a roomful of residents that any issue regarding Ward was a closed matter. The local newspaper turned down so many letters to the editor from worried residents that they lost dozens of subscriptions all at once. Nobody cared.

Attempts to reach out to other members of the Nazareth Board of Directors (comprised of local business-owners) met with claims the Board are mere figureheads, like “Chairmen Emeritus”, with ultimate authority resting on Sister Michelle. Any resident who tries contacting Sister Michelle to voice any frustrations about the office has the wonderful experience of their unread letter getting forwarded immediately back to said office, with retaliation always the final result. And the retaliation is so bad that most residents are scared to leave their apartments under any circumstances.

I myself once cornered Sister Michelle, following a local news story where she was quoted as saying the Nazareth Villages were “her ministry”. I challenged her to name any three current residents from among the 150 or so total. Sister Michelle could not name one. While the majority of residents have lived there for years, if not decades, the rate of turnover during Ward’s administration, the numbers of persons moving out each and every month, is the worst statistically of the entire history of the rentals. Not everybody can afford to move, however, and the growing despair among the residents has already resulted in a handful of attempted suicides.

In a similar fashion to my confrontation with Sister Michelle, I once dared the Editor in Chief of the local newspaper to come one day unannounced, to speak randomly with any three residents about concerns they might have with the office or the Sisters of Charity in general. He refused, stating that his friends on the Board informed him that there were no issues. So by their definition, “issues” does not include persons disliked by the office having their mail thrown out for days, even weeks on end. “Issues” does not include overt bullying, to the extent of screaming profanities at helpless seniors in front of corridors crowded with witnesses, or of apartments physically ransacked whenever the occupant steps out. “Issues” does not include the incident in early 2015 when a policeman had to explain to the office staff that their own insurance demanded they clean out the ice blocking a main entrance. “Issues” does not include the multiple occasions where the fire department arrived to deal with a false alarm, but were unable to enter the office for accessing the main shut-off as nobody on staff was on the property or would even answer their phones. “Issues” does not include hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars misspent and missing in action. There are a great many more “issues” which I’m not even beginning to breach, as they would take another hundred equally-lengthy articles to adequately spotlight.

The unapologetic levels of corruption, the blatant lack of a sensible chain of command, the staff that literally hides from their duties unless they see an opportunity to belittle someone, the absolute refusal to admit any wrongs done, even if it leads to yet another old-timer crying on my shoulder in confidence…the full scale of malicious actions committed and enabled by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth warrant investigations by the state banking commission, the local Fire Marshall, the HUD enforcement attorney’s office covering the state of Kentucky, the US Postal Service, the IRS and the FBI. I think at the utmost least there’s grounds for more than a few persons to go to prison, and for the Sisters to pay out tens of thousands in Federal fines.

Their influence in the region blocks any likelihood for justice, unfortunately. Not even a slap on the knuckles with a cold, hard ruler.