Sister Betsy is impressed with the way Sister Claudia manages to juggle her two ministries successfully. “Even though she cannot be available as much as she would like to be at times, she gives quality care to those she touches,” says Sister Betsy. “She does an amazing job juggling what is needed for family, friends, and community. She is selfless, always thinking of the needs of others rather than herself.”
She continues, “Claudia is a very gentle and sensitive person who makes every effort to go the extra mile to give quality care within community and at home. I often wonder how she makes all things happen for the good of all.”
Sister Claudia was born on a farm near Beech Grove in McLean County, Kentucky, to Joseph Dennis and Mary Frances Hayden. Her father was a farmer who also worked for a number of years as a kiln fireman at Owensboro Sewer Pipe Company. She has two sisters – older sister Janet is a teacher in South Carolina, younger sister Maria lives in Henderson, Kentucky. Younger brother Gary is a retired telephone company employee living in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Sister Claudia was given an early introduction to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, attending first through fourth grades at Saint Alphonsus Grade School, where the Ursulines taught her.
When her father sold the farm and moved the family to Sorgho, Sister Claudia began the fifth grade at Saint Mary Magdalene Grade School. “That was the first year that I really enjoyed school,” Sister Claudia recalls. She explains that her earlier school years were difficult because of her shy personality. “But we had Sister Ethelreda Hayden at Sorgho and she gave me a sense of self worth and confidence and I really loved that fifth grade year.”
The next three years (sixth through eighth grades) were also spent at Saint Mary Magdalene, under the guidance of Sister Clarentia Hutchins. “Sister Clarentia was always a character,” Sister Claudia recalls, “she really made school interesting. She challenged us scholastically. She made school enjoyable and stimulating. And she showed great interest in her students.”
Sister Clarentia is now a resident of Saint Joseph Villa at the Mount. “And she is still witty with a humorous personality,” says Sister Claudia.
It was Sister Clarentia who directed Sister Claudia to come to Mount Saint Joseph for high school. “She advised me and encouraged me to come to the Academy for my high school education and I did,” says Sister Claudia.
During her four years at the academy, Sister Claudia heard God’s call to serve and following her graduation she began her novitiate and entered Brescia College, studying elementary education.
Four years later, just shy of her degree, Sister Claudia was called to her first teaching ministry, a 2-year assignment teaching fourth graders at Saint Peter of Alcantara parish in Stanley.
After earning her elementary education degree from Brescia, Sister Claudia’s next assignment took her out of the state, all the way to Florissant, Missouri, near Saint Louis, where she taught fourth graders at Saint Angela Merici Grade School for three years.
“I really enjoyed teaching, I enjoyed the kids, I enjoyed the families,” Sister Claudia says. “But after three years in Florissant, Sister Annalita (Lancaster, the leadership director at the time) called and asked me to go into nursing.”
After two and a half years of study at Barnes Hospital School of Nursing in Saint Louis, Sister Claudia became a registered nurse and returned to the Mount infirmary.
For the next four years she worked in the infirmary in Lourdes Hall. “We did everything,” Sister Claudia recalls. “We cleaned, we were night nurses, aides, unit secretaries, med-techs, we were even pastoral care. I believe when I started we didn’t have a day off. We worked seven days a week.”
To fill the need of some hospital experience, Sister Claudia spent the next 18 months working as a staff nurse at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, and then returned to the Mount to serve as co-director of nursing, along with Sister Jacinta Powers, for three years.
Sister Claudia then spent two and a half years at the University of Louisville earning her bachelor of nursing degree, while working part time in oncology at Norton Hospital.
She returned home to the Mount for a year and a half, worked for 12 years as a dialysis nurse at Owensboro Mercy Health System, and then returned to the Mount in August of 2005 as staff nurse in Paul Volk Hall, a position she still holds today, working it around the demanding schedule it takes to raise, educate and tend to the many needs of three young children.
Sister Jacinta recently wrote a short story about Sister Claudia. The story is an excellent illustration of her family ministry:
Who comes to mind when you ask: who can walk faster than a speeding bullet? Or, who can apparently eat anything without gaining a pound? Or, who is blessed with the ability to catch a nap in two-minute intervals? The answer to all three is the same: Claudia Hayden.
She may be all those things, but there is a lot more. She recently left a happy 12-year ministry as a dialysis nurse to assume her current work with the sisters in Paul Volk Hall. She will say each day “I just love working with those Sisters and am glad to have the opportunity to become reacquainted with them.” After she leaves PVH (on the run), her hours of dedication continue for the rest of the day.
She shifts gears to a younger group of folks, her niece Melissa….and nephews Joseph.…and Derrick….. That nightly scene has as many facets as it does bodies. However, one thing I always am impressed with, as I am sure Saint Angela is also, is the nightly prayer ritual.
Now I have not witnessed it first hand, but young children make great human “tape recorders”, so I have gotten the picture relayed to me. Now try to envision, two boys tucked into their beds, Claudia and Melissa sitting one on each bed. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you…..Hail Mary….Our Father….Glory Be…”
Now each child shares what happened during day for which they are grateful to God. That usually illicit a few giggles. The day ends with sound sleep in that house, especially in Claudia’s body and soul.