CEDAR CITY — The line of well-wishers began forming at the Heritage Center even before the guest of honor arrived, and the steady stream continued through the two-hour reception as hundreds of people of all ages expressed their thanks to Holy Cross Sister Yvonne Hatt.
Sr. Yvonne has ministered in southern Utah for the past 31 years, except for a three-year stint in Israel.
Her life in the Cedar City area included serving at three churches with six priests, one deacon and countless parishioners and friends, as noted on a poster displayed at the Dec. 17 reception at the Heritage Theater. Another poster showed photos of her early years – as a child, as a high school graduate and in the traditional habit worn by Holy Cross sisters before they adopted modern dress.
A third poster showed her with “those men in my life” – Archbishop John C. Wester, who was the ninth Bishop of Salt Lake City; four of the former pastors of Christ the King Parish; and some of the parish’s Knights of Columbus.
“Sr. Yvonne is loved by everyone,” said Nancy Lefort, director of the parish’s religious education program, who helped organize the farewell reception. “She has touched so many lives. She has done so much as far as helping hundreds of people in whatever they need. Just her presence uplifts everyone who is around her.”
The well-wishers came from throughout southern Utah. Noel and Mary Poe and Toni Varela drove from Kanab; Sr. Yvonne frequently visited St. Christopher Parish there, said Noel Poe.
“She was always full of energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “She just kind of helped light us up, particularly when we went to hospitality after Mass.”
Mary Poe and Varela shared light-hearted memories: Mary Poe laughed while recalling that, to ripen the tomatoes she grew, the Holy Cross sister stored the green fruit under the bed in her trailer because there was no other place to put them. Varela recalled going to a religious convention with Sr. Yvonne and, upon hearing they had a choice of different styles of Mass to attend, Sr. Yvonne said she planned to go to the jazz Mass because she loves that style of music.
At St. Gertrude Parish in Panguitch, Sr. Yvonne will be missed dearly, said Dora Galvan, who attended the reception with her husband, Art. “If I needed anything [at the parish], I’d just call Sister and we got it,” Dora Galvan said. “She is just a beautiful, beautiful person.”
When Fr. Oscar Martin Picos, now pastor of St. George Parish, served at Christ the King Parish, Sr. Yvonne often accompanied him when he traveled to the missions to celebrate the Eucharist or other sacraments, he said. “She knows all the people by name. By name! All of them, not only in the missions but here in Cedar City,” he said.
“She knows everyone and greets everyone,” agreed Helene Engler, a Christ the King parishioner.
That welcome was what first greeted Richard Vogle and his family when they first walked into the parish, he said, “and a year and a half later I’m a full-blown Catholic,” while his children are going through the religious education process to receive the sacraments, he said. “She’s definitely been an inspiration.”
Several of Sr. Yvonne’s fellow Holy Cross sisters travelled from the Salt Lake City area for the reception. Sr. Celine Dounies started to choke up as she spoke of her memories of Sr. Yvonne, whom she has known all her community life.
Sr. Yvonne is adventurous and during a road trip “she’s willing to get off on any exit to explore,” Sr. Celine said, recalling a time when they were hiking and had to take off their shoes many times because a creek crisscrossed the trail. “She’s willing to go anywhere and do anything.”
In retirement, Sr. Yvonne plans to visit Paris, but she will live at a Holy Cross community home in California.