Historical Marker #2057 commemorates Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Frankfort.
The first Mass in Frankfort was celebrated by Father Stephen Theodore Badin in 1794. Father Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States, worked as a missionary in Kentucky and served various Catholic settlements located over a distance of more than 120 miles. Before regularly scheduled Masses were offered, Mass was held at various locations in Frankfort including in private homes.
In 1807, the Baltimore Diocese was the only Catholic Diocese in the United States. Four additional dioceses were created by 1808, including one in Bardstown, Kentucky. The Bardstown Diocese was the largest diocese ever formed in the nation, covering ten modern states states including Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Benedict Joseph Flaget was appointed the first Bishop of Bardstown.
On May 8, 1837, Bishop Flaget purchased the “Tunnel House” on the corner of Broadway and High Street for Frankfort’s Catholic community. Throughout the 1840s, the congregation continued to grow with a large influx of German and Irish immigrants to the Frankfort area. In 1848, St. Patrick Parish was established in Frankfort by the Bardstown Diocese and Father James Madison Lancaster was appointed as the first resident pastor.
As the number of Catholics in the area increased, a new worship location became necessary. Father Lancaster purchased a church and parsonage on Wapping Street for $5,000 from the Presbyterians in 1849. The existing building was small and was said to have been designed for Shaker style worship with separate entrances for men and women. Father Lancaster sought to build a larger church designed to meet the needs of Catholic worship. Construction on the new building began in 1850. Many parishioners who were craftsmen labored to build the church, often working after their daily jobs. The name changed from St. Patrick Parish to Good Shepherd in 1850.
As Good Shepherd Parish continued to grow, a school was established and the Sisters of Charity formed St. Joseph’s Convent nearby. The twenty-five Catholic families who lived in the Frankfort area in 1793 grew to more than eight hundred families by 1986. A larger church was needed, but the location on Wapping Street had no space to expand. In 1985, the parish decided to move to a new location. The current church building was built in 1997 at Shepherd Way in East Frankfort. In 2007, the decision was made to build a new school and move the remaining downtown operations to the East Frankfort campus.