Sister Mary Powers, MM

Born: January 23, 1917
Entered: September 7, 1942
Died: November 22, 2019

On November 22, 2019, in our Maryknoll Sisters Home Care, Sr. Mary Powers, peacefully gave herself for the last time into the hands of God, as she had done for the many years of her long life. She was 102 years old and a Maryknoll Sisters for 77 years.

Mary Elizabeth Powers was born in Fall River, MA on January 23, 1917, to Ambrose and Irene Moffitt Powers.  Mary attended public schools in Fall River graduating from high school in 1934.  To help her family during the Depression, so she took some jobs in the area, selling magazines and waitressing at a small restaurant before she entered Maryknoll on September 7, 1942 from the Fall River Diocese. Mary’s first vows were on March 7, 1945, and her finals vows were three years later (1948) at the Center on the same date.

In 1948, Sr. Mary received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Maryknoll Teachers’ College, and then went to St. Anthony School in the Bronx for a year of practice teaching before she was assigned to the Hawaii Region in 1949 (now named the Central Pacific Region).  In her years there, Sr. Mary taught middle and high school classes at St Anthony’s School in Kalihi (1949-61), Maryknoll School in Punahou (1961-63), and St. Anthony’s School in Maui (1963-68). She was principal of St Anthony’s School in Kalihi (1968-71) and then served in the same task at St. John’s School in Kalihi (1971-76). In all of these placements, her love of teaching was clear—she was respected by students and faculty alike. Sr. Mary was also known to love staying abreast of current events, reading daily both the morning and evening papers.

These years were a time of great change in the Church and in Maryknoll. Sr. Mary’s gracious acceptance of these changes was made easier by her shared life and community with two younger sisters, Sue Glass and Harriet Lum. As the Regional Superior wrote: “Mary finds this kind of small community as much more conducive to a realization of what community really means.” Sr. Mary helped many of the other sisters in Honolulu to move through these difficult years.

Sr. Mary returned to Maryknoll, NY for Congregational Service in 1976, working in Treasury and Direct Mail.  While there, she took courses in finance and computer science at Pace University and to her great surprise, she enjoyed these very much, both the content and the interaction with other students.  They prepared her for her return to Hawaii in 1981 when she took on office work at Maryknoll School in Punahou for three years (1981-84).

In 1984, Sr. Mary’s links with women in the Hawaii Health Department led to the establishment of RESPECT (Realize Effective Support Programs for the Elderly Through Churches and Temples). Sr. Joan Chatfield, Sr. Mary’s long-term and well-loved friend, was involved in making these connections as well. The goal was to enable frail elderly people to remain in their homes by giving them the support and care they needed. Sr. Mary’s educational background and her studies at Pace came together to enable her to lead this inter-faith, inter-religious program for twelve productive years with both compassion and well-formed managerial skills. She directed staff, raised funds, and trained volunteers, the first training being in a Buddhist temple.  As is often the case, good ideas spread, and the offshoot of RESPECT became the Buddhist program DANA, meaning compassionate giving, of which Mary was a long-serving board member.

In 2009, Sr. Mary’s declining health led her to make the decision to return to the Center at Maryknoll where she joined the Eden Community.  She had some years in which she participated in the community there, but the mystery of her final journey led her into silence; we do not grasp fully how God is present in our last days, but we trust that graced presence as Sr. Mary did until she died.  We thank the wonderful staff of the Maryknoll Sister Home Care and the Sisters who accompanied Sr. Mary until the day she left us to return home to the God she loved and served for so many years.

We welcome with us this morning our Maryknoll brother, Fr. James Mylet, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial.