Update: Sister Marie Michael Hayden completed her ministry in Fordsville in 2014. She is retired at the Motherhouse.
Sister Marie Michael Hayden, pastoral associate and director of religious education at Saint John the Baptist Parish in Fordsville, was named winner of the 2004-2005 Bishop John J. McRaith Catechetical Award last summer. “It was the biggest surprise I’ve ever received,” says Sister Marie Michael. “It was really a surprise. I cherish it because it was by nomination and because it’s called the Bishop McRaith award.” She continued, “I worked with the diocesan office for many years, and that makes it even more special.”
Sister Marie Michael, who is celebrating her 50th year as an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, may have been surprised when her name was called out as the winner of the award, but others were not. “Her commitment as a catechetical leader is unmatched,” says Sister Clarita Browning, OSU. “I worked closely with her when I was ministering as a parish DRE.”
Sister Julia Head, OSU, says, “If long years of service do not give a full measure of commitment, consider her efforts to keep up to date with all things catechetical.” Sister Goretti Browning, OSU, adds, “I believe her deep faith and humility, her qualities of hospitality, adaptability and generosity make her an outstanding role model for catechists, youth leaders and parishioners.”
A native of Owensboro, Sister Marie Michael began her teaching career at St. Columbia School in Louisville in 1957. She moved on to St. Catherine School in New Haven from 1959 to 1964 before becoming director of religious education for the dioceses of Lincoln, Nebraska, and then Owensboro. She also served as director of religious education in Lebanon, Missouri, before coming to Fordsville in 2002.
“Without a doubt, Saint John’s is the smallest parish (78 members, 47 families) I’ve ever been associated with,” says Sister Marie Michael, “but what a joy it has been to get to know everyone. That sure wasn’t the case when I was in Nebraska. I had to work out of a suitcase as I traveled across the state, from Iowa to Colorado. There were 134 parishes there with over ten thousand in adult education.” She said there were only 400 families in Saint Francis De Sales parish in Lebanon and only 200 in Sacred Heart parish in Russellville, but “they were still bigger than Saint John’s.”