Sister Michael Marie Friedman: “…I think it is a challenge every day.”

Sister Michael Marie in class with 7th-8th grade teacher Sharon Hernandez.

Update: Sister Michael Marie Friedman completed her ministry at St. James School in 2015. She served as a pastoral outreach minister in Livingston County, Ky., until 2021, when she retired to the Motherhouse. She went to heaven on Sept. 12, 2022.

“Sister Michael Marie has been a wonderful role model and mentor.”

“The kids respect her leadership.”

“She always has us first.”

“She is definitely a leader.”

Fellow administrators, teachers, school secretaries and students have plenty to say when they are asked about their principal, Sister Michael Marie Friedman, who has guided the fortunes of the Elizabethtown, Kentucky, school for the last 14 years.

“I like Catholic schools and I like working with youth, “ says Sister Marie Michael, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, “I think it is a challenge every day.”

The history of education in St. James parish in Elizabethtown dates all the way back to 1870, the year the Sisters of Loretto opened a school there called St. Mary’s Academy. In 1902 the name was changed to St. James School. A high school was added in 1922, but it closed 12 years later because of declining enrollment.

The high school reopened in 1942, was officially recognized under the new title of Elizabethtown Catholic High School in 1951, and then moved into a new building in 1955. A new grade school followed in 1964.

Sister Michael Marie with assistant principal Ellen Hamilton.

Financial difficulties forced the high school to close in June 1969. Two years later the grade school moved into the high school building.

Today, St. James is an accredited school with kindergarten through eighth grade, a preschool for three- and four-year-olds and after-school care, serving everyone in Hardin County and the surrounding counties of Nelson, Meade and LaRue.

Since Sister Michael Marie’s arrival at St. James in 1991, she has seen the school grow steadily. “We started adding a classroom every year,” she points out, “until we had two rooms for every class, K through eight. Last year we had to do some special adjusting to accommodate new students from St. Bridget (Vine Grove).”

St. Bridget closed its school last year. Two years ago, St. Christopher in Radcliff closed its school. Earlier a number of parishes in nearby Nelson and LaRue counties had closed their schools, many of their youths enrolling at St. James. “With the 30 or 40 students we’ve picked up from Vine Grove and Radcliff, we have truly become a regional school this year,” says Sister Michael Marie.