In Remembrance of Sister Marie Michael Hayden, OSU
June 17, 2018
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
“Little things do make a difference. It is the little things, the ordinary things, the routine things that bring change to individuals, or that come to symbolize change. And that which brings change to the individual brings change to the world.” This is a quote from an article that Sister Marie Michael wrote in the Lebanon, MO, Daily Record in May 1990. She was a woman who brought about change and did it with the grace of a woman on a mission. The greatest change of all for her came on June 13th in the early evening when she entered heaven. She was surely greeted by Fr. Lucian and all her family and former community classmates. As we remember her life, you will see how much she effected the lives of many across several states and many communities.
Helen was born on September 17, 1932 to Henry Walter Hayden, Jr., and Mayola Mullican Hayden. These faith-filled parents were role models in the Daviess County community, St. Paul’s Parish and their sixteen children. Prayer was a very important part of their lives. Mayola was known to walk behind her husband while he plowed the fields saying the rosary with him. They had Helen baptized on September 26, 1932 at St. Paul’s church in Owensboro and she was confirmed in 1938 at St. Paul’s Church by Bishop Cotton. She was the ninth child born to the family. Several of the children died when they were very young. Her brothers and sisters include: John Pascal, Henry Walter, Lucian Paul, Michael Mullican, Donald Richard, Mary Petronilla, Theresa Lilly, Raymond Estil, Frances Helene, David Lee, Ann, Rose Marie, Marian Rachel, Gemma Mary, Dennis Martin, and Alma Pauline. We offer our sympathy to you who are with us this evening—John, David, Rose Marie, and Rachael. Fr. Michael is unable to be with us. We are praying for you and all the other members of your family.
Helen attended the first Blessed Mother School located at 7th and Frederica Streets and in the fifth grade attended St. Francis Academy at 5th and Allen. Some of her teachers were Sisters Adalaide, Joseph Imelda, Agnes Celestine, and Francis Borgia, who were Sisters of Charity. Her first two years of high school were at St. Francis Academy with the Sisters of Charity and she completed her last two years at Bethlehem Academy, a girls’ boarding school in St. John, KY., where the Sisters of Loretto taught. She graduated in 1951.
Before entering Mount Saint Joseph novitiate, Helen worked for an Insurance Adjuster and typed tax forms for a CPA while attending classes at Brescia College.
She entered on September 8, 1954 along with 15 other young women. At 21 years of age, she was considered a “delayed vocation” because four of her classmates were only 15. Sisters who are in her class are Sisters Margaret Marie Greenwell, Francis Louise Johnson, Catherine Marie Lauterwasser, Teresa Riley, Marietta Wethington and Jane Falke. We offer you our prayers as you say goodbye to your classmate.
As a postulant, she received special permission to travel to Pifford, NY to attend the ordination of her brother, Michael, with the Trappist Order at Our Lady of the Genesee. That was out of the ordinary since sisters very seldom left the convent grounds during those days except to go on mission.
On August 14, 1955 she received the name of Sr. Marie Michael—becoming the third “archangel,” along with her aunts Sisters Gabriel and Raphael. She also had a cousin in the community, Sister Uriel. Sister made her first vows on August 15, 1957 and her final vows on August 15, 1960.
Her first teaching assignment was in September of 1957 at St. Columba in Louisville, KY where she taught first grade. She moved to St. Catherine in New Haven, KY in 1958 where she taught first grade and was music teacher. During these years she was going to Brescia College (now University) to finish a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. She received her degree in 1964.
In the summer of 1964 she was asked to open a new missionary CCD program (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) in Lincoln, Nebraska teaching more than 10,000 adults how to teach religion. She remained as Associate Director of Religious Education in the Lincoln, Nebraska Diocese for fifteen years. “I loved traveling the wide-open spaces. It was one of the greatest graces of my life—more doors opened than I would have ever realized,” Sister said of her work there.
During her years in Nebraska, she continued to go to school. She and one other person were the first two people to graduate from the Catholic University of America with a Master’s degree in Religious Education. This was a new Masters’ Program at the University. She took everything she learned and applied it to her work. There are numerous articles and newspaper clippings from the papers in Nebraska telling about the wonderful work she did in the parishes there. She continued to add certificates in the area of religious education, theology, adult education, psychology, television, and communications. She never stopped going to school. In 1973, in an article in the Valparaiso Hi-Lites newspaper, it stated Sister Marie Michael is the Associate Director of Religious for the Diocese of Lincoln, a post she has held since 1964. She is coordinator of elementary and secondary religious programs for the diocese, director of adult religious education, teacher training, and parent education programs. She has taught 159 courses in adult religious education since 1964, has conducted workshops in Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas and has had articles published in The Living Light, Focus: 70’s in Adult Education and Our Sunday Visitor. Sister is a member of the Diocesan Commission on Ecumenism and a board member and the first Sister representative of the Lincoln Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.”
In 1977 she was named in the national publication of “Who’s Who in Religion in America.”
In 1979, she was asked to return to the Diocese of Owensboro to become the Diocesan Director of Religious Education. She worked with both Bishop Henry J. Soenneker and Bishop John J. McRaith. She held that position for seven years. During that time, she offered many workshops to train catechists, worked with the Diocesan Renew program, enhanced the catechetical lending library, and worked with the Committee for Lay Ministry in the Diocese. She was a member of the Committee for Total Education which brought together representatives from the schools, religious education, adult education, and lay ministry. During her time in the diocese, she wrote grants and received money for 5,000 copies of a book on parent religious education, AV Material for the handicapped, VCR equipment, a Traveling Classroom Van equipped with a library and AV materials, and salaries and materials for ministries in mission areas without priests.
After completing her work at the Diocesan office, she began her work as a Parish Minister. She served at St. Francis de Sales in Lebanon, MO for nine years. In an article in The Lebanon Daily Record she said, “I assist the pastor in serving the spiritual needs of the people. I am most grateful to God for life and being born to faith-filled parents and into a loving family. I am especially grateful to God for my religious vocation. I have really enjoyed Lebanon. It is small enough to get to know the people. I love the Ozarks because it is such a beautiful area.”
During her time in Lebanon, she published three volumes of the Catholic Curriculum and Resource Guide for the Armed Forces of the United States. These were used on army bases all over the United States and where troops and their families were stationed around the world. The interesting thing is that her name does not appear anywhere in the books.
In July 1996, she returned to the Owensboro Diocese to work with her brother, Father Lucian, at Sacred Heart Church in Russellville, KY. In 1999, she continued to assist Father Lucian while he was a resident of the Carmel Home. After Father Lucian died, she began her work at St. John the Baptist parish in Fordsville, KY. She was Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education for twelve years at this parish.
Sister returned to the Mount in 2015. She has lived in the Villa for the past three years and brought joy to all there. Her eyes were so expressive when she couldn’t speak. Her smile told you what she wanted to say.
As we close this remembrance, we use her words of wisdom. These are from another article she wrote in the Lebanon paper in 1991. She says, “There is something very important about making each day count for good. God’s gifts of love, joy, forgiveness, and hope are offered to us freely and are there for the taking. The Spirit of God delivers these gifts as a gardener gives water to a garden. It is up to us to be receptive to these blessings so that we can accomplish what needs to be done. God is always ready to lift us up, to nourish our life, and fill us with his love. In opening ourselves to the needs of others, we find opportunities to be of service, to offer a helping hand and to say a kind word. These are like rays of light easing those who suffer pain and disappointment. In turn, our hearts rejoice as we witness those who are able to take each day with trust and acceptance. Their lives do count and are precious. Truly these gifts are crowns of beauty in the hands of God.”
Sister Marie Michael, you have shown us the witness of a true servant and we know that God handed you your crown of beauty. Thank you for your life as teacher, leader, and true Ursuline.