In 1913, Father James Massa from Saint George Parish in Jenkins began to minister to the twenty Catholic families in the Hazard area. Mass was celebrated monthly in the Norfsinger home on Baker Hill. In 1918. Father Earl Bauer was appointed pastor at Jenkins and began celebrating weekly Mass in the home of James Roan. In 1920, Father John McCrystal was appointed pastor at Jenkins and Masses were moved to the storeroom of the Fulp Building on East Main Street. After the 1927 flood, Bishop Francis Howard of Covington decided to purchase a small plot of land with a five-room cottage on Cedar and Poplar Streets located high above the flood plain. 

In 1927, Saint Mary Mission in Hazard was established by Bishop Howard with Father John McCrystal as pastor and the small five-room cottage was dedicated as Saint Mary Chapel and also served as the priest’s residence. In 1929, additional property was purchased to the rear of the chapel for a future church. In 1935, Father Miles Paul Spain was appointed pastor and approval for the church was given by Bishop Howard. The cornerstone was laid by Father Spain in November 1938. Saint Mary Mission was made a parish and renamed as Mother of Good Counsel by Bishop Howard when the new church was dedicated as the Diocesan Shrine of the Kentucky Mountain Apostolate in June 1939. Construction on the parish rectory was completed in December 1939.

Finished Church in 1939.

In 1947, Precious Blood priests arrived to care fo the parish. The Benedictine Sisters of Covington arrived that same year and opened Mount Mary Hospital. In 1947, a six-room cottage with a basement was purchased to serve as a catechetical center with a kindergarten operated by the Benedictine Sisters. In September 1958 Mother of Good Counsel School was opened. During 1959- 60, the ground floor of the rectory was remodeled into a parish hall. In 1962, the Franciscan Friars of Saint John the Baptist Province, Cincinnati, Ohio, assumed care of the parish. In 1967, Mount Mary Hospital was closed and Mother of Good Counsel School was closed one year later. In 1980, Father Rock Travnikar, OFM, was appointed pastor. During his pastorate, the convent and old school house were removed and the parish center was completed in 1982. The Father Farrell Spiritual Life Center and the guest house adjacent to the friary were completed in 1987. 

In 1999 the Hazard parish began construction on a new friary and religious education wing which were completed the following year. In 2005 an expansion and remodeling of the church started and Bishop Ronald Gainer dedicated the newly expanded church on August 27, 2006. Father Michael Chowning, OFM,  served as pastor of Mother of Good Counsel Church in Hazard from 1993 – 2016.

In 2016 three parishes, Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Campton Kentucky, Holy Cross Catholic Church in Jackson, Kentucky and Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Hazard, Kentucky, previously served by the Franciscan Friars took on a new structure of leadership, collaboration, and sacramental ministry, and became known collectively as the “Cluster”. Transitioning from a Pastor to a Parish Life Director, from a resident priest to traveling sacramental ministers, and moving towards greater collaboration between the three parishes has offered both challenges and new promises for vibrant faith communities. Pat Riestenberg served as Parish Life Director from 2016 – 2018. Currently Lori Helfrich serves as the Parish Life Director and she has been serving since 2018.  Mother of Good Counsel Church currently serves 95 registered families.

Historical Timeline

1913 St. Mary’s Mission in Hazard established by the Diocese of Covington

1925 First Confirmation by Bishop Francis Howard from Covington

1926 First acquired property:  Corner of Cedar and Poplar Planned site of hospital to care for miners and  Hazard residents with small church nearby

1929 Acquired property to the rear of the first property facing  Poplar Street; building was not possible due to the  Depression, but still planned  for the hospital and church

1932 The Depression forced the parish back to mission status, with visiting priests from Jenkins; (Mass still offered in the 5 room cottage)

1935 Construction of the new church, approved by Bishop Howard

1939 Mother of Good Counsel was dedicated and designated as the  Diocesan Shrine of the Kentucky Mountain Apostolate,  started and designed by Father Paul Spain who died  before its completion.  Father George Donnelly completed  the church and parish rectory.

1947 Mount Mary Hospital was established after the Benedictine  sisters purchased Hazard General Hospital. Sister Mary Gabriel OSB was a very respected administrator and a loved member of the community.

1947 Three Benedictine sisters began a kindergarten program, the forerunner of the Catholic school in Hazard.

1958 Mother of Good Counsel grade school opened.

1959-60 Ground floor of the rectory was remodeled into a parish hall/kitchen.

1961 School was opened to 8 grades.

1967 First Catholic Bible School

1967 Mount Mary Hospital closed

1968 Mother of Good Counsel School closed

1969  First Parish Council

1975-80 Father Mark Sanford beautified grounds

1980 Father Rock Travnikar organized religious education for the entire parish

1980 Sister Virginia Farrell (Maryknoll sisters) organized a Hospice Program

1982 Parish Center was completed;  also a 2-bedroom apartment  and a storage area which was used for the Hospice program, Sunday school classrooms and the Little Flower Clinic

Early 1980’s The sisters’ residence and former school house was removed to make paved parking lots

1987 Friary addition, including guest house, overnight retreat  facility and garage 

2000 New religious education center and residence was completed

2000 Little Flower Free Clinic opens in the parish center basement.

2005 Remodeling and expansion of Mother of Good Counsel  Church/kitchen/handicapped bathrooms began.

2006  Dedication of the newly renovated and expanded church.

2009  November 15th declared Franciscan Sunday in hazard by Mayro William D. Gorman

2012 50th Anniversary of the Granciscan Friars in Hazard

2013 100th Anniverssary of Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Community

2016 Departure of the Franciscan Friars. Parish ministry cared for by lay Parish Life Director, Patricia Reistenberg and traveling Sacramental ministers

2018 Lori Helfrich installed by Bishop John Stowe as Parish Life Director