Renew your spirit

A young adult pilgrimage in collaboration with Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (must be over 21 to participate).



The great state of Kentucky has made countless contributions to American history and culture. When people think of Kentucky, they might think 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.

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The dates of the pilgrimage are

Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9 (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, Kentucky, the first Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains.

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

This pilgrimage is set to depart at 8:30 a.m. (from South Bend) or 9:00 a.m. (from Fort Wayne) on Friday, June 7, and return approximately 8:00 p.m. (to Fort Wayne) or 8:30 p.m. (to South Bend) on Sunday, June 9.



Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Friday, June 7 (D)

  • Morning departure from South Bend (8:30 a.m.) or Fort Wayne (9:00 a.m.) for Kentucky, and stop for lunch on your own along the way

  • Afternoon Distillery Tour #1 at Barton 1792 Distillery and then continue to Nazareth Retreat Center for dinner

  • Evening prayer (Compline) with brothers at the Abbey of Gethsemani and 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 8:00 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

  • A dedicated pilgrimage guide

  • Daily Mass, prayer, and reflection time

  • All included activities:

    • Tickets to 2 distillery tours (anticipated to be Barton 1792 (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

  • Discounted pricing (available to pilgrims 21-33): $199

Payment Options:

  • Credit card

  • Electronic bank transfer

  • Check or money order (made out to "Verso Ministries LLC")

    • Send to: Verso Ministries LLC

    • P.O. Box 986

    • Notre Dame, IN 46556

If you would like to pay by check or money order, please contact us before you register online.

Cancellation Policy:

$50 of the registration fee is non-refundable. Cancelling 30-7 days prior to departure, $80 of the fee is non-refundable. Cancelling 6 days or less no refund is available. Please contact us right away if you need to cancel for any reason.



Registration is first-come, first-serve. All spots are open until filled. Any young adult over the age of 21 (at the time of departure) is welcome to register.

Reserve your spot today!



Please feel free to contact us at any time!