Sister Jacinta Powers: Finding her joy in serving the poor

“It turned out good, I got to use my gifts to teach the plan to vulnerable people,” she said.

When the program ended in 2006, the diocese wanted to keep Sister Jacinta as an employee who would explain how people could live a healthier life. She was asked to come up with a name for the program.

“I’m fascinated by bridges,” she said. “In Kentucky, there are so many little bridges we cross without even knowing it. So I named the program ‘Bridge to Health,’ to help people get from where they are to a healthier life.”


These are two of the children Sister Jacinta met on her 2007 trip to Mandeville, Jamaica.

The diocese partnered with impoverished Mandeville, Jamaica, in 2003, and Sister Jacinta went for the first time in 2004, with Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer, Martha House, Dorothy Tipmore, and Sister Barbara Jean Head. “That’s when Mary fell in love with it. She went to work in the clinic,” Sister Jacinta said. Martha House and she made several trips to help Danhauer in her clinic for a week at a time.

“On one trip, two other nurses went with us,” House said. “Jacinta told us during the day, remember the people and events where you saw God in people’s actions. She kept a journal, and that would be our discussion at night. She thinks like that.”

Sister Jacinta was struck by the happiness of the people in Jamaica. “They want to bring you into their life. There’s a contrast of seeing people here with so much stuff, but no apparent happiness all the time,” she said. “It makes you wonder why there can’t be more equality.”

Sister Barbara Jean said she could tell the trip had sparked something deep inside Sister Jacinta. “She’s a very generous person with a big heart. Her deep, deep desire is to work with the very poor,” Sister Barbara Jean said. “With each trip she made, when she came back I could see a difference in her.”

During the Ursuline Sister’s Chapter meeting in the summer of 2007, Sister Jacinta floated the idea of starting an Ursuline ministry in Jamaica. When 20 sisters came to discuss it, the idea took hold. In March 2008, six sisters and an associate went to Jamaica on a fact-finding mission for a week, and when they returned, recommended that a full-time ministry be established.

One of the sisters on that trip was Sister Monica Seaton, whom Sister Jacinta befriended when Sister Monica was a postulant.

Sisters Monica, Martha Keller, and Jacinta Powers sit in front of the famous fountain in Sienna, Italy, during a 2008 trip.

“On Jacinta’s previous journeys to Jamaica, she was touched by the people and their love of God,” Sister Monica said. “Jacinta’s heart reaches out to the poor and vulnerable of the world and, true to the Gospel, her mission is to help alleviate their suffering. Jacinta’s passion was so deep she wanted to invite others to experience the face of God in the same way she had.”

Also in 2008, Sister Monica accompanied Sister Jacinta on a pilgrimage to Brescia, Italy, to visit the places of Ursuline founder Saint Angela Merici.

“In Brescia, we attended Mass in the church where the body of Saint Angela rests,” Sister Monica said. “It was an awesome and moving experience for each of us and then it was time to continue our journey to other places before returning to our hotel in Brescia that night. Jacinta’s desire to follow Angela led her to make the choice to stay in the church and spend the day praying before the body of Angela rather than continue on the side trips,” Sister Monica said. “When we reconnected that evening she was so radiant as she shared the story about how the sisters at the church had brought her tea and she spent the time in prayer, having tea with Angela – as though she was catching up with a long lost friend. Like Angela, Jacinta’s mission is to lead others to Jesus. Jacinta would never want the focus on her but instead to do what Jesus and Angela would do for others. Making choices, she would say, is what life and encountering the Divine is all about – choices for the other person and not for oneself.”