Father Paul Joseph Volk was regarded during his life and even after by all who knew him to be a saint. His tireless work in the vineyard for the salvation of souls is legendary. The month of October is, among other things, a time to give special emphasis to archives. The Kentucky Archives Month’s theme for the year 2013 is Folklore and Superstitions. The inexplicable stories and legends that were spoken of Father Volk during his life and after attest to his sanctity and the powerful ways he interceded for the people in his care. Below are just a few of these stories.
The Soft Brick Becomes Hard
This is the story of the construction of the original brick building used for Mount Saint Joseph Academy. When the kiln of brick which Father Volk had burned was opened and the workmen were ready to begin the building, the bricks were found to be soft and unfit to be used. Returning home, the masons expected the job to be delayed until another kiln could be burned. Father Volk was silent, but at dusk he was seen attired in cassock, surplice and stole, passing around the kiln with lighted candles and holy water in fervent prayer. Some observers stated that he gathered straw and leaves lying near which he put under the kiln and lighted. This subterfuge was no doubt intended to conceal the miracle which he knew God would not deny. As a matter of fact, the brief flash of fire could not have caused enough heat to affect the brick.
The following morning Father Volk recalled the workmen, saying that everything was ready to begin. The men came only out of deference to his wishes, but imagine the surprise and awe which was registered on their faces when seeing the very hard brick that the day before were soft and unfit for use but were now hard and waiting to be lined up for the signal to start.
The men went to work and erected a structure that is still standing today, a most fitting monument to a true servant of God, a holy priest who felt sure his worthy cause would be heard and answered before the throne of his Heavenly Father.
Crossing the Green River
This story is told by Jackie Kiefer, a young man who spent much time with Father Volk. During the rainy season of 1877 or 1878, Father Volk was called to administer Last Rites to a dying woman who lived across the Green River, some distance from Curdsville. Upon arriving at the ferry, John Oldham, the ferryman, told Father Volk that under no consideration would the ferry operate. The water was up, the wind was high and the current too swift to insure safe crossing. Father Volk said the call was urgent, saying, “I’ve got to go. Come on, John [his horse].”
Two or three days later, John Oldham told Jackie how the horse swam straight across and, keeping Father Volk above water, enabled him to reach a safe landing, perfectly dry. In relating this experience, Mr. Oldham, a non-Catholic, said, “I stood like a statue – could not move – while Father Volk and his horse swam across the stream, expecting every minute to see horse and rider disappear. I cannot describe my feelings when realizing both were safe. I have often heard of miracles, and if there is such a thing as Divine Intervention, I have lived to see a real miracle.”
His mission of mercy accomplished, Father Volk returned home by another route. Some days later, the two men meeting again, Mr. Oldham jokingly remarked, “You didn’t come back the same way you went.” “No, I didn’t,” Father Volk replied, “because I had nothing to hold me up,” meaning, of course, the Blessed Sacrament which he carried to the dying person.
Healing of Murlyn Mulligan Bumm
Interviewed in 1986, Murlyn Mulligan Bumm gave this story of a healing bestowed on her through Father Volk during her childhood. She says, “Father Volk came to Stanley [Kentucky] on some sort of business. My father had heard about the miracle he, Father Volk, did on the Mount St. Joseph bricks, so 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. My legs were bandaged, and he told them to take my bandages off. He blessed my legs and said, “Now her legs are going to be all right.” I was nine months old [in 1913]. See, I was club footed, one of my legs was turned in, and they said in a short time my mother could notice that my leg which was turned in was turning out a little, and in a year I was walking. The doctor had said I would never walk.”