Alumni Spotlight - Sr. Pat Hayhurst

Merry Christmas Spotlight: Sr. Pat Hayhurst, C.S.J.

Peppermint Patty – Class of 1967

By Paul Shanahan ‘90

Imagine for a moment that you are a homeless child. Your life is full of uncertainty. You can’t depend on anyone or anything. Until suddenly you can. A willowy red-headed woman drives up in a car full of games and activities. For you. And for your sister and for the rest of the homeless children. This kind woman teaches you how to play. She brings organization, structure, and fun. Lots of fun.

And then she comes back. And then she comes back again. And suddenly you can depend on someone because she keeps following through on what she says she is going to do.

Each time you see her car you run toward it in anticipation and excitement. And every single time, Sister Pat steps out of the car with a smile that touches her eyes. With a smile that touches your heart…a smile that warms your soul. A smile that heals.

You don’t stay homeless. And you never forget Sister Pat.

From Sally Cahill Tannenbaum: “I have so many great memories of Pat Hayhurst, or ‘Peppermint Patty,’ as she was called by her classmates. Pat was a happy and endearing classmate with an infectious smile and big dimples. She was always quick to pitch in and help on any project and, in 1967, was named ‘Crusader of the Year.’ I have particularly special memories of a skit we performed when Pat served as President of the GAA (Girls Athletic Association) during our senior year. Pat’s quick wit and hearty laughter made the entire skit uproariously funny. If she hadn’t joined the Convent, she’d could have had success on the Comedy Hour.”

There is a book of wisdom in a conversation with Peppermint Patty. She is a guide to living a great life. A visit with Sister Pat is an opportunity to connect with that part of you that is your best self.

Sr. Pat is community. She is a cradle to the grave Catholic who has been a servant leader as long as anyone can remember. She leads with a smile and a warm heart, and that approach has made her a favorite of children and staff no matter what hat she was wearing at the time: teacher, principal, safety coordinator, operations manager, homeless shelter recreation volunteer, board member, prayer partner, sister, advisor, friend.

Sr. Pat points to God, her family, and the Sisters of St. Joseph as the foundation to the servant leader she is today, was yesterday, and will be tomorrow.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Sister earlier this month. She is a Sister because of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the community they created in Eureka, California.

“From my experience at St. Bernard’s, I got the sense of community – getting together on projects – it was life skills. Shakespeare plays. Building sets. Helping one another. Any SB alumni will tell you that. Community was really evident. Rooters buses. There was a place for everybody.

“When you think about people wanting to come back it comes in part from the respect we had for one another. We didn’t call it that. Positive energy was there…sure squabbles happened, but you had a purpose. The Sisters gave it to us by their example.”

Patricia Hayhurst decided to pursue religious life after high school.

“The joyful love of God: That’s what I saw when it came time to decide to enter a religious community or not. It was really about that joyful love of God and the presence of the Sisters really being with us. Being with families. Being a part. A genuine presence. Still to this day it is still what attracts me. Servant leadership.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph were Sr. Pat’s extended family – as the Sisters were to the entire St. Bernard’s community. Sr. Pat remembers looking for them at games: “They were such supportive fans. They were always there for us.” Learning from the Sisters in the classroom: “Excellent teachers, the best.” Understanding the power of collaboration and leadership: “Even the rallies were an opportunity to connect, plan, and celebrate.”

What is the secret to finding success at every stop along your career path?

“Be in the moment and understand that you are supposed to do the very best exactly where your feet are planted. It’s not about what was or will be, but where are you right now and what are you doing to make a difference.”

Did you have a favorite stop along the way?

“Favorite school? I loved them all. I loved all my assignments. Difficult or not so difficult. I was so disappointed when I had to leave the classroom. I had gotten cancer otherwise I never would have left. I knew how to reach kids. Somehow I had that gift. I still get my kid fix. Helping on retreats and volunteering. I have to do that – it’s how you stay young.”

Walter Fletcher: After school Sr. Pat’s continued dedication to her school, classmates, her calling is beyond compare.  My wife Kathy went to Rosary High in San Diego class of ‘70, she had some of the same teachers as us.  Her homeroom/science teacher was one Sr. Judith Wemmer.  Sr. Judith and Kathy had a close bond that continued as we grew older. As Sister Judith got up there in years and began having health issues, Sister Pat would check on her for us, and kept us well informed and up to date when Sr. Judith wasn’t able to. Last year when Sr. Judith was put in Hospice at the Mother House in Orange, Sister Pat, after we told her of our plans to visit Sr. Judith, took over and made all the arrangements to have us stay in the guest rooms at the Mother House, so that we could be close by. It was a tremendous help to us. I relate this as a small example of Pat’s love for all her classmates, friends, relatives, students, and most of all her calling as a Sister of St Joseph.” 


There was something special at the homeless shelter. A difference maker, Sr. Pat does mark this stop as one that stands out in concrete images.

“I worked for a good many years in a homeless shelter. Couple times a week – teaching kids how to play games. I remember the kids running out to the car every time I showed up. Starved for attention. I brought some structure. I helped build a community there for them. A win, win. Significant in my life of service. Really a great opportunity. I can still see their little faces as they were running out to the car.

“You want to honor that innocence. The last part to “childhood” is hood. Protection. To be that piece of a shelter for a kid and let them be kids. And remember, I always receive more than I give.”

Mary Intersimone: I have fond memories of Pat.  She was my idol, in all sports, we had a healthy competition, she was always great in every team we played on, from Tennis to Basketball.  She was always competitive and she drove me to be better, she is a true Crusader!

Sister Pat earner her Masters in Administration from USF. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the CSJ Education Network of Schools. Sr. Pat also works in operations in employee engagement and leads the safety systems in Orange. She also helps manage the grounds and the Heritage Room. Yes, she does it all.

“Community is really important to me. How that helps support your life individually and as a group. It’s the fuel that’s needed for our purpose. Wherever there is a Sister of St. Joseph we say we are all there. We never feel alone. Wherever my feet are is where God wants me to be. I’m not yearning for something else. The present moment is significant.”

I note the impact of a life serving others. I note the difference she has made for others.

“I feel the circles of love going out. I feel loved and appreciated.”

And remember, “There is so much wisdom in kids. Big and little.”

St. Bernard’s alum and teacher Cathy Cahill Maher remembers high school Patricia Hayhurst’s “dimples, her wide-open smile, her red hair and her exuberance.” What a gift that Sr. Pat carried that smile and exuberance out into the world.

Sr. Pat continues to be a gift to the world, a difference maker, a leader, an extension of your family, and the embodiment of the Joyful Love of God.