Renew your spirit

A pilgrimage for young adults to the Abbey of Gethsemani and the Bourbon Trail



The great state of Kentucky has made countless contributions to American history and culture. When people think of Kentucky, they might think of some of our greatest pastimes - horse racing, baseball (Louisville slugger, anyone?), UK basketball, bluegrass, and the most hipster one yet - sipping on the world's best bourbon.

Maybe a little less universally known, albeit no less important, one of the most famous Catholic monks and writers of the 20th Century, Thomas Merton, lived the majority of his life in Kentucky. Author of countless books, essays, and poems, Merton's influence was felt around the world in areas from spirituality to peace to civil rights.  Entering the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in rural Kentucky in December 1941, Merton lived a life of prayer, contemplation, and monastic asceticism, while at the same time conversing with the outside world through the written word. This man was the real deal. Maybe you've heard of him.

This pilgrimage will explore two of Kentucky's greatest contributions to the life of the world today - Thomas Merton and the Bourbon Trail. Come "renew your spirit" on this pilgrimage which will explore the intersection of faith and culture, sacred and profane, spiritual and physical refreshment.

This pilgrimage is a collaboration of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Verso Ministries.




Dates of this pilgrimage are: Friday, June 7 - Sunday, June 9, 2019 - 3 Days / 2 Nights

What you will experience

  • Explore the history and spirits of the Bourbon Trail, with tours and tastings at local distilleries

  • Pray at the Abbey of Gethsemani, the monastery of Thomas Merton, and visit the Merton Hermitage with Brother Gregory, a Trappist monk (pending availability)

  • Discover the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Kenctucky, the first Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains

  • Refresh your spirit with time for prayer, reflection, and spiritual refreshment

The pilgrimage is set to depart at 8:30 a.m. (from South Bend) or 9 a.m. (from Fort Wayne) on Friday, June 7, and return about 8 p.m. (to Fort Wayne) or 8:30 p.m. (to South Bend) on Sunday, June 9. Exact pick-up locations and times will be communicated to registered pilgrims.



Tentative Itinerary: June 7 - 9, 2019

Day 1: Friday, June 7 (D)

  • 8:30 a.m. - Depart from South Bend

  • 9 a.m. - Depart from Fort Wayne

  • Noon - Lunch stop (on your own)

  • Afternoon Distillery Tour #1 at Barton 1792 Distillery, followed by checking into lodging at the Nazareth Retreat Center and dinner

  • Evening Compline at the Abbey of Gethsemani

  • Overnight at the Nazareth Retreat Center

Day 2: Saturday, June 8 (B, L, D)

  • Morning hike to the Thomas Merton Hermitage in the cloistered area of the Abbey of Gethsemani, with Brother Gregory, followed by prayers with the brothers at noon and lunch

  • Afternoon Distillery Tour #2 at Bourbon Heritage Center at Heaven Hill Distillery

  • Dinner, followed by optional Bardstown Ghost Trek

  • Overnight at the Nazareth Retreat Center

Day 3: Sunday, June 9 (B)

  • Morning visit to St. Thomas Church and Bishop Flaget Log Home, followed by Mass at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown

  • Afternoon Distillery Tour #3 at Jim Beam American Stillhouse (optional), followed by lunch (on your own)

  • Approximately 8 p.m. - Return to Fort Wayne

  • Approximately 8:30 p.m. - Return to South Bend

(B, L, D) refer to the meals (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner) included in the pilgrimage package. Please note that this itinerary is subject to change.



Pilgrimage package includes:

  • Pilgrimage preparation and follow-up materials, including a pilgrimage booklet

  • A pilgrimage guide

  • All included activities:

    • Tickets to 2 distillery tours (anticipated to be Barton 1782 (free) and the Bourbon Heritage Center at Heaven Hill Distillery)

    • Visit with Brother Gregory to the Thomas Merton Hermitage in the cloistered area of the Abbey of Gethsemani (pending availability)

    • Visits to St. Thomas Church, Bishop Flaget Log Home, and St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral

  • Round-trip transportation from Fort Wayne or South Bend

  • Most meals - 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 2 dinners

  • 2 nights accommodations at the Nazareth Retreat Center

Please note: Distillery tours and bourbon tastings are included in the pilgrimage package, but pilgrims are not required to participate.

Pilgrimage package does not include:

  • Some meals (Friday lunch, Sunday lunch, and Sunday dinner) and any personal purchases

  • Optional activities:

    • Bardstown Ghost Trek experience on Saturday evening ($15 per person)

    • Jim Beam Distillery Tour ($14 per person)

    • Advanced tickets must be purchased for optional activities. About one month before departure, we will contact you to in regards to how to add these optional activities.

  • Optional travel insurance

  • Gratuities for guide(s) and driver(s)



Pricing starts at only $179 per person! Act now to take advantage of early-bird pricing!

Full cost of the pilgrimage is $240 per person. However, the first 20 young adults to register will receive a $61 scholarship provided by Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend! This early-bird pricing applies to the first 20 young adults to register.

If you are not one of the first 20 pilgrims to register, be not afraid, the Diocese still has you covered. The final 13 young adults to register will still receive a $41 scholarship provided by Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

  • Early-bird pricing (available to the first 20 pilgrims): $179 per person

  • Pricing for the 21st-33rd pilgrims to register: $199 per person

How do I register?

  • Register online now!

    • For your convenience, registration can be made online and the fee can be paid with a credit card or debit card.

Can I setup a payment plan?

Sure thing! Just contact us, and we can set up a payment plan for you. Final balance must be received by May 1, 2019.

What is your cancellation policy?

$20 of the registration fee is non-refundable. Cancellations are possible at any time, but refunds are subject to cancellation fees at the rates listed here.

  • Cancellation after deposit and 31 days or more from departure: $20 per person

  • 30-7 days prior to departure: $50 per person

  • 6 days or less: No refund given

  • Cancellation fees are for individual pilgrims.



Please feel free to contact us at any time!