The abbey's most famous resident was the monk and author Thomas Merton. Since May 3, 1949, the abbey church has been designated a minor basilica. Today, the term "basilica" is a special designation given by the Pope to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance, or significance as a place of worship.
The abbey, with its large guesthouse and reputation for virtually limitless hospitality, has become a popular site for retreatants, Catholic or otherwise.
Due to its spike in novices during the middle of the twentieth century, the monastery chartered many daughterhouses, including the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, Georgia; Mepkin Abbey in Berkeley County, South Carolina; Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California; and Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York.
The Gethsemani monks are also famous for the cheese and fruitcakes they make, which they sell by mail order all over the world.