Sister Jacinta Powers: Finding her joy in serving the poor

“She’s very knowledgeable, what she doesn’t know, she researches until she knows it,” Sister Claudia said. “She has a real teaching skill to persuade better self care. She can use a lot of humor, or be very straight.”

After two years, Sister Jacinta returned to Louisville to work as an oncology nurse at Norton’s Hospital.

Sister Jacinta gets some information from Sherrian Henderson, of Memphis, a patient at the Church Health Center.

“I loved it. Those people who came in to get chemotherapy knew what life was about,” Sister Jacinta said. “They knew what was valuable – family. You’d get really close to the patient and families.”

Changes were occurring in Sister Jacinta’s family as well. In October 1988, her father died at age 75. “He left me a sense of joy,” Sister Jacinta said. “People say ‘he’ll never die because you have his sense of humor.’ Everyone loved being around Daddy.”

In 1990, Sister Jacinta moved back to Owensboro to be closer to her mother. “After he died, Mother moved into town, so we didn’t have that country home place,” Sister Jacinta said. “My brother and I got closer to support her.”

She became a dialysis nurse at Owensboro Daviess County Hospital, the longest ministry she’s had, and another chance to build relationships with people.

“You see these (dialysis patients) three to four times a week for a couple of years,” she said. “You get to know them, their families, and their dog’s name.”

It was while working there that she met Martha House, and also worked briefly again with Sister Claudia.

In 1995, two events shaped Sister Jacinta’s life. In October, her mother died at age 82, and in December she was elected to her first of two terms on the community’s leadership Council. She continued to work part-time as a dialysis nurse during her first term on the Council, but left in 2000 when her second term began.

During her tenure on the Council, Saint Joseph Villa was built, the long-term care facility to replace the aged infirmary. But the proudest moment for Sister Jacinta was when the community joined UNANIMA International, the nongovernmental organization of the United Nations that helps shape international policies, especially those promoting the welfare of women and children.

“I was honored to be the person on the team to go to meetings in New York, being a cog in a wheel, part of a vehicle to make the world a better place,” she said.

The Ursuline Sisters were ultimately the driving force in getting the state of Kentucky to pass an anti-human trafficking law in 2007.

Sister Jacinta works with one of her parishioners at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Susan McGhee, who heads the Patient Assistance Program.

Sister Jacinta said being on the Council is very humbling. “It taught me how many sisters were trying to hear the voice of God and follow it. We’re all as different as the number we have,” she said. “Like a piano, every string has its own tone. Sometimes we need some tuning, but when we’re all in tune, we can do much together to help others make a journey to heaven.”

During her second term on the council, Sister Jacinta earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Webster University. In January 2003, she became the first health care administrator for Saint Joseph Villa.

“We were trying to get a certificate of need so we could get state reimbursement,” she said. “I had to make sure we were following all the laws, I had to go to Frankfort (the state capital) to work with lawyers. We never got the certification.”

With her term on the council coming to an end, and the recognition that the certification was not going to come, Sister Jacinta decided to leave Saint Joseph Villa in October 2004.

“I wanted to use my gifts to do something that wasn’t being done,” she said. Sister Joseph Angela Boone, chancellor of the Diocese of Owensboro, told her the director of social concerns was looking for someone to explain the Medicare prescription drug plan to seniors. In November 2004, Sister Jacinta began as an AmeriCorps worker with the diocese.