Sister Laura Hatton, MM

Born: October 1, 1921
Entered: October 14, 1948
Died: September 29, 2010

“Who can find a valiant woman; she is worth more than precious stones. She opens her hand

to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy!” Proverbs 31:10, 20

These words from Proverbs 31:10, 20 well describe Sister Laura Hatton whose entrance into new life we celebrate today. Laura died peacefully on September 29, 2010 at Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care III. She was 88 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 61 years.

On October 1, 1921, Laura Clare (Graves) Hatton was born in Del Rio, Texas to Elma [Elmer] Hoover and Roy Graves, the only daughter and the youngest of their six children. Her mother was later re-married to Ralph L. Hatton.

Laura attended High School in Ozona, Texas, graduating in May 1939. After receiving an R.N. in 1942, from Shannon Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, she studied at the University of Texas in Austin, for one year.

Laura worked for Dr. G. L. Nesasta, an orthopedic doctor, in Ozona, Texas, for two years. In 1945, she became an Army nurse with the rank of Second Lieutenant. She served at McCloskey General Hospital, Temple, Texas and at Bruns General Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She left military service in 1946, but she went to work at veterans’ associations as a senior grade nurse in both Los Angeles, California and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sensing that something was still missing in her life, Laura, who was not Catholic, began attending Mass. Following two years of serious study in the faith, she converted to Catholicism, and was baptized on February 10, 1947, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Los Angeles. She was confirmed on April 15, 1948 at the same parish.

It was during this time that Laura heard a Maryknoll Father speak about the foreign missions and realized her calling. On August 19, 1948, upon the advice of her spiritual director, Laura wrote a letter to Maryknoll stating, “I understand that I am ‘young’ in the Catholic Faith having been baptized only in 1947.” She entered Maryknoll at the novitiate in Valley Park, Missouri on October 14, 1948 from Sacred Heart Parish in New Orleans, Louisiana. At Reception she received the religious name of Sister Mary Helen Claire. She made her First Profession of Vows on March 7, 1951, at Valley Park and her Final Vows on the same date in 1955 in Bolivia. Following her First Profession Sister Laura spent a year at Maryknoll Teachers College and in 1952, earned a Midwifery certificate at the Catholic Maternity Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sister Laura was assigned to Bolivia in 1952. There she spent the next 46 years. After studying Spanish in Cochabamba, she welcomed an assignment to Riberalta, Beni, where she worked in Hospital Riberalta for 11 years as a nurse, in the hospital pharmacy, as well as assisting in the medical-social welfare service in the parish.

Her next assignment was in Cochabamba where for 12 years, she, along with Sister Elizabeth Ann Altman, opened the Santa Ana parish dispensary for the many poor of the area. These two Sisters along with a number of faithful volunteer nurses and committed doctors, known for their compassion and love of the sick poor ministered to the hundreds who frequented the clinic both from the city of Cochabamba and distant rural areas. Laura’s proficiency in speaking Quechua, the language of the majority of those who came to the clinic, as well as Spanish, was a special blessing. Year after year in the same apostolate might result in diminished energy and enthusiasm, but this was never true of Laura, who spoke of the patients not as many TB or typhoid cases but as individual persons. Daily she served both children suffering from many debilitating diseases: malnutrition, respiratory infections and typhoid as well as adults with TB, and gastro-intestinal problems. The sick, as many as 100 who came daily to the clinic, knew that they would receive the kind of care that Jesus, the Healer, extended to the poorest of the poor during His days on earth. Laura served in the Center Health Unit at Maryknoll from 1977-1979, after which she returned to her beloved Bolivia, where she continued serving in the Santa Ana parish dispensary.

In 1998, Sister Laura came back to the Maryknoll Center for renewal and to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. In 1999, Laura was assigned from the Bolivian Region to the Rogers Community at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. She wrote: “I feel it is time to focus on my present reality with limited physical energy. I do wish to be active in the community and its interests. I would like to have the freedom to be free to choose where I might be helpful and to deepen my prayer life.” In welcoming her to the Center, the Rogers Coordinators defined her as “a truly genuine person with gentle ways and a quiet sense of humor.”

In 2009, Laura moved to Residential Care III where she remained until her death.

On a well-worn fragment of paper in her address book, Laura had an excerpt from the writings of Fr. Adrian Van Kaam which reads: “The religious person will grow to quiet wisdom, to serene acceptance and to a beautiful twilight in the approaching evening of her life.” Laura has now reached this description in the twilight of her life. May she rest in peace.

We are happy to welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father William Coy, MM, who will preside at our Liturgy of Christian Burial.