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Nun is a Devoted Elvis Fan

by Bryon Crawford

Elvis NunShe left her Elvis records, scrapbooks and her tube of "Love Me Tender" lipstick in a box under the bed at home when she entered the convent to become an Ursuline nun.

The year was 1959. Sister Anne Michelle Mudd was 18. Elvis Presley's "A Fool Such As I" was spinning its way to gold.

During the next five years at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse near Owensboro, and even after she left on her first mission assignment, Sister Anne Michelle would hear little of Elvis and the outside world. But sometimes, when she walked past a nearby barn where workmen were listening to a radio, she would walk a little slower if she heard an Elvis song.

"I had done a term paper my senior year in high school, titled 'Elvis Presley,' probably the only A+ I ever got in any subject except Conduct and Effort," she recalled. "I never got it back. The teacher, Sister Marie Kathleen, kept it."

During her teen years as Nancy Mudd she liked Ricky Nelson, too, and Eddie Fisher, and even Jerry Lee Lewis, but she had never before and has never since heard a voice like that of Elvis.

The collection

In recent years, as the Ursuline order has modified some rules for nuns, Sister Anne Michelle, now 63 and the principal of St. Paul Elementary in Grayson County, has been making up for lost time with Elvis.

"In fact, if I put on a tape or CD and I'm going to be out of the room for a few minutes, I'll turn it off, because I don't want to waste his voice without somebody hearing it," she said.

She has more than 40 books about Elvis, numerous posters, T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, lamps, an Elvis telephone that plays "Hound Dog" when it rings, an Elvis quilt and Elvis pillow cases. She has an Elvis alarm clock and watches, Elvis Christmas tree ornaments, most of his music, all of his movies, and a stand-up cardboard figure of Elvis that is stored in the convent closet.

Sister Anne Michelle lives next door to the school where she teaches kindergarten through second grade. Each day, she gives one lucky student a page from the 365-day Elvis calendar on her desk.

Sharing her appreciation

"When the upper grades go on a field trip and her class doesn't go, they get to go outside and have lunch beside the convent. Then she takes them inside to tour what she calls The Elvis Museum," said fellow teacher Joan Butterworth. "Then she'll have Miss Deanna call over there so they can hear her Elvis phone ring."

Sister Anne Michelle nearly got her hands on an authentic Elvis concert scarf several years ago, but her brother, a retired Kentucky state trooper who had been given the scarf when he escorted Presley at a concert in Louisville, lost it before she could add it to her collection.

When she learned that Elvis had died on Aug. 16, 1977, Sister Anne Michelle went directly to church and made the Way of the Cross for the singer. Yes, she has read about his failings, she said, but his charity and humility were redeeming qualities.

"It's not for me to judge," she said.

Copyright (c) August 17, 2004, The Courier-Journal.  All rights reserved.  Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, Inc. 



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