Beginning in 1831, Mother Catherine Spalding was the vital leader in forming what we now refer to today as "Compassionate Louisville" initiating groundbreaking programs in education, health care, and social service.
Downtown Louisville is a fitting place for Mother Catherine's statue as all around can be found reminders of her lingering impact in the river city. In 1813 Catherine Spalding entered the newly formed Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, a community of religious women, and at 19 years of age, was of elected their first leader. In 1831, she and three other Sisters began Presentation Academy in the basement of St. Louis Church on the site of the present Cathedral of the Assumption. Mother Catherine and the Sisters nursed victims of cholera in 1832-33, and as a result of the epidemic started St. Vincent Orphanage next to the Cathedral for children left alone by parents' deaths or abandonment. Mother Catherine could often be seen bringing children from the wharf to this new home around the corner from the site of this statue. Louisville artist Raymond Graf used this facet of history as inspiration for the statue.
To accommodate more children, Mother Catherine and the Sisters bought and refurbished a building at Jefferson and Wenzel streets in 1836. There she cared for homeless and abandoned children and
used a wing of the building for St. Vincent Infirmary (later St. Joseph Infirmary) - first private hospital in Louisville.
At the time of Mother Catherine's death in 1858, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth extended beyond Nazareth to more than one hundred Sisters in sixteen convents. More than two centuries after their founding, members of the Congregation have served in hundreds of elementary schools, high schools, and three colleges. Countless children were given homes in six orphanages, and thousands of patients received care in fourteen hospitals. Six nurses' training schools extended the SCN service. Today, Mother Catherine's spirit lives on in in hundreds of Sisters, international now in membership, and in ministries in the nations of North and Central America, Asia, and Africa.
This statue of Mother Catherine was dedicated by the people of Louisville, including Cathedral of the Assumption parishioners, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., Archbishop of Louisville on July 26, 2015. One hundred fifty-seven years after Mother Catherine Spalding's death, her statue is the first of a woman erected on public land in Louisville.
"...if we are, in practice, the Servants of the poor, the sick & orphan, we are voluntarily so: But we look for our reward, in another & a better world."