Sister Jacinta Powers: Finding her joy in serving the poor

“We don’t preach to patients, but you can sense the attitude when you walk in the door,” Foster said. “It’s not uncommon for patients to ask the staff to pray with them. It is a ministry,” he said. “If you have a patient who needs some sort of guidance, it’s so nice to have Jacinta and Dr. Buchignani with us.”

“All these doctors, CMAs, and nurses could make a lot more money elsewhere,” Sister Jacinta said. “They don’t come for the money. They are responding to a call. I’m a little cog in a wheel that’s a great chariot. On the first day, I felt a part of the wheel.”

Country girl

Stephanie Hurd, a certified medical assistant, helps Sister Jacinta find some paperwork at the Church Health Center.

Sister Jacinta grew up on a farm in tiny Curdsville, Ky., a stone’s throw from Maple Mount, with an older sister and brother. “I’ve always loved rural. We had cows, pigs, corn, and soybeans,” she said. Her dad, Joe Powers, was a farmer and a full-time jokester, she said.

“Daddy took us fishing every Sunday after Mass, always from the bank, no boat,” she said. (They fished in the nearby Green River or at her uncle’s lake.) Three of her father’s younger brothers are priests in the Diocese of Owensboro, Aloysius, Richard, and Bernard Powers.

Her mother, Thelma, raised the children. “She taught us to read before we started school. I still love to read,” Sister Jacinta said. Her sister, Mary Aloysia, was five years older, her brother Hubert 2 ½ years older. Mary Aloysia died in 1985. “She was the idol of us both,” Sister Jacinta said.

Her mother named her Jacinta after the youngest of the three children who witnessed the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Since her older siblings were already named, Sister Jacinta took Lucy as her confirmation name, and Hubert took Francisco as his, so that all three of the children of Our Lady of Fatima would be in the family.

“My daddy thought I was ‘Joe-cinta’ after him,” Sister Jacinta said. “It took him about eight weeks to realize I was ‘Jacinta.’”

Sister Jacinta was taught by Ursulines at St. Elizabeth School in Curdsville. Sister Eva Boone, who now heads the quilting ministry, was her first-grade teacher, and Sister Luisa Bickett taught her fifth grade. “That was 1965, the first time we sent sisters to South America,” Sister Jacinta said. “I remember Luisa staying in at recess listening to records that didn’t make sense (they were in Spanish). After Christmas, she didn’t come back. She’d gone to Chile,” Sister Jacinta said. “That was the first time I put the world in a bigger picture.”

After St. Elizabeth, Sister Jacinta attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy, where Sister Rosemary Keough was one of her teachers.

In 2009, Sister Jacinta (far left) talks to Sister Monica Seaton’s 7th and 8th grade faith formation class at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro about her ministry in Jamaica.

“I especially remember when her class did the decorating of the old gym at Brescia for their prom,” Sister Rosemary said. “They built with Joe’s help a real windmill for ‘Windmills of your Mind’ and covered it with broken pieces of mirrors — they were very creative. I was supposed to be their junior homeroom sponsor, but always felt not really needed — they came up with such good ideas.”

Sister Jacinta enjoyed her days at the Academy and was very involved. “I worked on the newspaper as a photographer and headline editor, played on the basketball team, was in drama, and the honor society,” she said. Sister Agnese Coomes was her math teacher. “She got us to learn way beyond our ability,” she said. “She was one of the sisters I took care of in the infirmary 15 years later.” (Sister Agnese died in 1990)

Sister Jacinta was not actively thinking about becoming an Ursuline, but the pull of the sisters was strong. “Just seeing them live differently than what we were doing, it was a curiosity,” she said.

A taproot so deep

Thelma Powers had been in the Ursuline community for more than six years before leaving. Despite that, and the presence of three priest uncles, entering religious life was not discussed in the Powers home, Sister Jacinta said.