St. Paul Catholic School in Leitchfield, Ky., has struggled with enrollment for years, but the people at St. Paul Church have refused to let it close. One of its fiercest supporters was Ursuline Sister Anne Michelle Mudd.
“She went to school here. She loved this place,” said Martha Hall, one of Sister Anne Michelle’s sisters. “She loved little kids, she loved to teach them.”
“The school almost closed one year,” her sister Sondra Gavieres said. “She saved everything to raise money – Campbell’s soup labels, stamps – she didn’t even take any pay,” Gavieres said.
On Aug. 2, 2023, the first day of school at St. Paul, the students, teachers and other supporters gathered to break ground for a new building, which will be named the “Sister Anne Michelle Mudd Annex.” Sister Anne Michelle spent 31 of her 60 years as an Ursuline Sister serving at St. Paul as a teacher or principal, and was still serving as a religion teacher when she died suddenly on Aug. 11, 2020.
The school has 75 students to begin the year, quite an increase from recent years.
“I hope it’s because of the message we have here,” Principal Todd Johnston said. “It’s a smaller environment. It’s what we teach.”
While increased enrollment is good news, the school is out of space. It has had to limit enrollment because there is no room for additional students.
“We need a room for every grade level, and the new building will allow that,” Johnston said. “We had to cut off kindergarten at 10 students. With the new building, we hope to increase that to 25 eventually.”
Father Steve Hohman is the pastor of St. Paul Church and a driving force in keeping the school going. He gathered all the students – each wearing a yellow hard hat that read “I work for God” – to break ground, even though the footer has already been poured for the building. Among those in attendance were three members of the Ursuline Sisters’ Leadership Council – Sisters Sharon Sullivan, Martha Keller and Monica Seaton.
“In May, we went to the diocesan building committee and told them our plans, and that we’d raised $250,000 so far for this $450,000 building,” Father Hohman said. “They said we had to show where we would get the rest of the money. We would not be here today without Mona Higdon. She was the spark who got us to go to the churches and the alumni. Eight days later we had the pledges we needed. We are so blessed by the support.”
The Lampton family gave the church the property for a reduced price, and along with volunteer labor and donated materials, the building will be completed for half of what it would normally cost, Father Hohman said.
“My dream is to have kids in the new building by the end of the school year,” Father Hohman said. “We want to get the kindergarteners out of their 12-square-foot room.”
Gavieres, who held a picture of Sister Anne Michelle during the groundbreaking, said she believes her late sister is helping the cause.
“I think she has something to do with this,” Gavieres said. “You can’t raise that much money this quick.”