After his mother’s death in 1988, Bob Bumm wanted to keep the crucifix his mother gave him. He couldn’t understand why the letter from his cousin, Ursuline Sister Marie Michael Hayden, was so adamant that he return the crucifix to Mount Saint Joseph.
On July 3, 2019, Bumm’s family – some visiting from Louisiana – learned just why that crucifix is so important to Mount Saint Joseph history. And they heard it straight from his mother’s mouth.
Bob Bumm’s mother was Murlyn Mulligan Bumm. She was born in nearby Stanley, Ky., in 1912, and was afflicted with a club foot – one of her feet turned in. The doctor told her parents she would never walk.
The devout Catholic family decided to seek a different cure. They sought Father Paul Joseph Volk, the legendary priest who built Mount Saint Joseph Academy and brought the Ursuline Sisters to Maple Mount in 1874. Those who know of Father Volk’s legacy are familiar with the story of the “blessed bricks,” how when faced with bricks that wouldn’t harden to build the Academy, Father Volk prayed over the bricks all night. When the workers arrived the next day, the bricks were ready to use.
That wasn’t the only miracle Father Volk would perform. In a Nov. 14, 1986, recorded interview, Ursuline Sister Jamesina Spain asked Murlyn Bumm about that second miracle. Here is an excerpt of Murlyn Bumm’s interview:
“Father Volk came to Stanley on some kind of business and my father had heard about the miracle that he did with the Mount Saint Joseph bricks, so he went back there and asked – he went and asked him if he would bless my legs. So, my mother took me to church and took me back in the sacristy and my leg was bandaged and he told them to take my bandage off, and he blessed my legs. He said, ‘Now her legs are going to be all right.’ And I was nine months old, and they said in just in a short time … my mother could notice one leg was turning a little. And within a year I was walking.”
Father Volk gave the crucifix he used for his miracle to Hattie Thompson, an employee at the Mount who complained she did not have a crucifix for her room. Later, “Miss Hattie” – as she was affectionately known – gave the crucifix to her niece, Sister Marie Michael. Sister Marie Michael eventually gave it to her Aunt Murlyn, with instruction that upon her death, it should return to Maple Mount.
The crucifix was a constant source of comfort for Murlyn Bumm, as she detailed in her recorded interview.
“When I need a favor, I have a crucifix from (Father Volk), and I get out the crucifix and I asked him for a lot of favors. In fact, I get ashamed of myself … he answers a lot of my favors. … On my death it is supposed to go back to Sister Marie Michael. She doesn’t have no certain place to store it, so it might get lost, and I thought I could keep it and then when I pass on, then it goes back to her.”
Murlyn Bumm gave the crucifix to her son before her death, and after receiving Sister Marie Michael’s letter, Bob Bumm recalls driving to the Mount to return the crucifix.
He and his wife Margaret now live in Baton Rouge, La., and their son Bill and his family live in Denham Springs, La. A visit to see relatives in Owensboro – including Bob’s sister Linda Jackson and her daughter Tammy Mattingly – the first week of July brought the family unexpectedly to the Mount.
Instead of a trip to an aunt’s farm in Whitesville, Ky., Tammy Mattingly told her cousin Bill, “The Mount has Granny’s voice recorded.”
Mattingly contacted Heidi Taylor-Caudill, archivist for the Ursuline Sisters, who invited the family out July 3 to listen to the interview with Murlyn Bumm and see the crucifix and some of the other items belonging to Father Volk that are stored in the archives.
The family gathered around a table in the Lourdes community room to listen to the 9-minute audio recording, following along with the printed transcript.
“I’m just about ready to cry hearing her voice again,” Mattingly said.
“It’s pretty touching and moving,” Bill Bumm said. He was in his early 20s when his grandmother died.
“I’d heard stories about this, but I didn’t know the history. We knew that some miracle did happen to Granny,” he said. “She went to church every day for 40 years. We had a joke, if the priest had a question, he asked Granny.”
The family got to see a piece of Father Volk’s cassock and his pocket watch that Taylor-Caudill brought out.
Bob Bumm recalled the day he drove to the Mount to hand over the crucifix.
“I didn’t really want to do it, but I knew the crucifix belonged here,” he said. “When I brought it out here, I didn’t realize the significance. Father Volk was practically a saint.”
After finishing the recording, the family walked to the Mount cemetery to visit Father Volk’s grave, and also found Sister Marie Michael’s grave and another relative buried there, Father Lucian Hayden. But Bob Bumm’s surprises were not over yet. While taking a photo of Father Volk’s tombstone, Bumm read that Father Volk was from Fulda, Germany.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “Fulda is where my family is from.”
Murlyn Bumm’s recording is available on the Archives page of the Ursuline Sisters website. Visit ursulinesmsj.org/online-collections.