By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Some people know how to touch a community.
Those who know Sister Yvonne Hatt can tell you of the many ways one person can impact a community. For nearly 30 years, it was Sr. Hatt’s focus to serve in teaching and family ministry at Christ the King Parish in Cedar City, and to reach out to anyone who needed a helping hand or a caring friend.
A native of Southern California, Sr. Yvonne, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross right after high school – a decision that led her to teach first grade for 28 years, in Calif., Idaho, and in Utah, before serving at the local Catholic Church in what she says was “a trial run” in finding her niche in the community.
Since then, Sr. Hatt is known for her adventurous spirit, willing to take up a project without flinching at the hurdles. Today, you can find her arranging for a group to help an elderly woman who has no way of furnishing a one bedroom apartment, or checking in with the 22 Sisters who were evacuated from their retirement home when wild-fires broke out in Ventura, Calif.
She has worn many hats since 1986.
“I’ve seen change here, many new families and of course, with the larger community, it means you will see more need come,” said the Sister who is known for her work – organizing caregiving for the elderly, ministering to families and lining-up the help that is needed year round. “What we see is more homebound people, more needing assisted care, and in general, more people that need a hand-up.”
According to Sr. Hatt, the Diocese has seen five bishops, five pastors and five associate priests come into service over the years, and she has been part of three different church locations. But from her vantage point, there has never been a lack of ways to help. “When I first arrived here, Cedar was still pretty small and rural, so we would visit each of our churches one day of week to assist.”
The Sister said she still has a finger in each of those church-needs, but, her main calling is to take on “whatever needs to be done.”
Her decision to take Vows with the Sisters of the Holy Cross began in 1955, and her childhood experience at the Catholic School. “I had always admired those Sisters — they always seemed to be very happy,” she recalled. “They did so much ‘good’ in whatever job they took, so as a young girl, I knew early on that this was something I wanted to commit to.”
When Sr. Hatt is not organizing caregivers to provide once-a-week help to the homebound or sick, she keeps busy with other duties – from providing marriage-family classes to handling accounting and office-related roles.
“There were three years, I was away on a hiatus to the Holy Land,” said Hatt of the experience. “It was a wonderful experience for me, but I was asked to serve as the cook, which was the worst part of that time, I’m afraid.”
Nevertheless, Sr. Hatt was able to explore and spend time at the Holy sites, to take classes in Hebrew and find ways to serve in a foreign country. She also fondly remembers her early days in Cedar City.
“I met some wonderful people and neighbors, and ended up doing some house sitting, but those first friendships also allowed me to find the people who and situations that needed attention.”
According to Sr. Hatt, her days have been filled with people, prayer, and sometimes checking off those little things on the bucket list.
“There are things that come up — times when you need to step in that make you feel nervous, but I’ve found that a community works best when it works together, and this community has become my home and family for many years.” Her next adventure will involve retirement and a move back to Southern California and perhaps to a quieter life…or maybe not.
“For me, every person is important, worthy of respect and inclusion into community life,” she said of her many years with the Parish. “So when the unpredictable or uncomfortable situations come by, I go with the flow.”
Her church family at Christ the King Church has become more diverse serving both local, Anglo-American families as well as a growing number of Mexican immigrant families who have decided to call Southern Utah home.
While Sr. Hatt spent a fair number of years dressed in the traditional habit and robes of the Order, she is glad that the formal attire has evolved into more practical options with a more approachable appearance.
“I have to say that those long dresses used to get wet and muddy on the playground, and the Sisters would be in them all day – So I can’t say that I miss that at all.”
In fact, she considers casual dress and humble attitude a big plus in reaching out to others and across Parish boundaries.
“As we go into the world, we really need to reach out, no matter the background or the religion. If God is at the center, we do what we can do. But there is always something that comes along… and opportunity for us to be more Christ-like.”
When Sr. Hatt is not busy serving with the Care and Share Board, and participating in the Cedar Area Interfaith Alliance (CAIFA) you might find her helping out with Parish-office duties or arranging for a home-cooked meal for someone that doesn’t have a kitchen. And, she is well known for her quilting, handicrafts and a thirst for adventure along the way.
“A friend recently gave me a book on the retirement years, but I’m not really worried about that,” said Sr. Hatt with a smile, “New things to do somehow have a way of always finding you.”
Caption: In December, Christ the King Parish in Cedar City will say farewell to Sr. Yvonne Hatt, CSC, who will retire from nearly 30 years of service before retirement in California.