CEDAR CITY — Dozens of people gathered June 25 at Christ the King Parish to celebrate Holy Cross Sister Yvonne Hatt’s 80th birthday.
Sr. Yvonne’s path into the religious life started right after she graduated from high school, when she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, which is based in Notre Dame, Ind.
Since professing vows, she taught in schools in Utah, Idaho and California For a little over 28 years. Then her ministry at Christ the King Parish began 27 years ago, in 1986, as a “trial,” as she refers to it. She took over the ministry of two other Holy Cross sisters who ministered to families in the far-flung areas of southern Utah. Back then Sr. Yvonne spent much time traveling to minister to families in St. George, Kanab, Milford, Beaver, Panguitch and other places, organizing and giving classes for adults and children.
Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, now vicar general of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, recalls those years. “I fondly remember my years with the two original Holy Cross ‘gypsy sisters,’ Sister Patricia Riley, CSC and Sister Eileen Dewsnup, CSC, when I was assigned my first pastorate at Christ the King Parish in Cedar City in 1982. Sister Yvonne has wonderfully carried on the tradition they began back in the early 1980,” Msgr. Bircumshaw said. “The Sisters lived out of a mobile home, and many nights stayed with Catholic families as they made pastoral visits throughout Southern Utah. It is amazing the evangelization and witness they accomplished for the Catholic Church in those rural areas.”
Among those who sheltered Sr. Yvonne were Sam and Marty Kravetz.
“She stayed with us for about four weeks,” said Sam Kravetz, remembering lots of times when he and his wife shared stories and jokes with Sr. Yvonne.
The June 25 celebration for Sr. Yvonne was filled with joy and shared stories. The event was a joint effort of the Knights of Columbus and the parish’s Catholic women’s group.
“The Knights did the cooking and the cleaning and the ladies were in charge of the food,” said Bill Lund, a parishioner who also shared a fond memory about Sr. Yvonne.
“Sister really likes to hike; one day for the youth group she convinced me to take them on a hike,” he recalled. “It was very nice, but on the way back Sister tripped and fell, and she fell right into the rocks. We comforted her and got her up. ... This was on a Thursday and when I came back to church on Sunday, everybody was all over me: ‘Why are you trying to kill Sister? What’s wrong with you?’” he said, laughing and emphasizing that he considers Sr. Yvonne “the most wonderful person in the world. I just can’t say enough about her.”
As people shared their stories during the celebration, more people kept arriving to show their respect and to wish Sr. Yvonne a happy birthday.
Hispanics and Anglos alike had a great time reliving their memories about the time spent with her.
“She always answered all the questions that my kids had about the Church. ... She always helps out a lot,” said Roberto Lomeli, who remembered meeting Sister Yvonne for the first time in 1993.
“From then on I see her always greeting everyone, and she remembers everyone,” he added.
“I shudder at the thought [of the time] when we will no longer have religious sisters in so many of our parishes, missions and institutions. Sr. Yvonne has been, effectively, the ‘pastor’ to so many souls, covering mission parishes when there was no priest for Sunday Mass, and able to be even closer to the people in many ways than any priest could ever be,” said Msgr. Bircumshaw.
Summing up the sentiment of those whom Sr. Yvonne has touched during her years in Utah, Cody Hare, who was at the celebration, said, “Thank you, Sister, for all you have done!”
Sr. Yvonne was very happy and thanked everyone for all the moments spent together.
“They are wonderful; they are my family and I treasure each and every one,” she said.
“A hearty congratulation to Sr. Yvonne as she celebrates a very ‘young’ 80th birthday. And many more!” Msgr. Bircumshaw said.