American mystical missionary dies in India

Story By: Sister Malini Manjoly, SC (Matters India). Patna: Sister Ann Roberta Powers, an American member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, died Saturday at Mokama in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. She was 90.

Her funeral is scheduled at 3 pm on Sunday in Mokama.

A native of Clover port, Kentucky, she entered the Kentucky-based congregation in 1942.

She was the youngest of six sisters who embarked on the congregation’s first mission to India in 1947. They came to start a hospital at Mokama, Bihar, to care for people affected with leprosy. She was just 22 when she departed from Brooklyn, New York, aboard a cargo ship.

Powers was a mystic who revealed that ‘God became human and lives among us’ through her humble life of 67 years in Bihar. She was a member of the congregation’s Patna province.

As the first born of Everett August Powers and Eva Mae Elder in 1924 at Clover port, Kentucky, Roberta Marie Powers was a role model for her four sisters and five brothers.

Sister Powers was a fearless pioneering missionary. Though she was a trained teacher, she served at Nazareth Hospital, Mokama, doing whatever the superiors asked of her during the initial years. She was the first non-formal teacher for children and women, besides teaching them catechism after Sunday Mass in Mokama.

In 1950 Sister Ann Roberta along with her three companions laid the educational foundation of Nazareth Academy, Gaya and was one of the popular teachers from 1950-1961. Sister served as the superior of the first SCN community at Ranchi, Jharkhand, from 1967-1969.

She started the first Hindi medium school for tribal people at Chatra, a remote rural area in Jharkhand, in 1969. She was a champion for girls’ education. She believed that changes in society can happen by empowering women and girls.

She served in various capacities such as Director of Social Work, Province Treasurer, Superior and teacher in the formation house.

Her last days were spent at Shalom, Mokama, and served in the Apostolate of Prayer.

She is survived by two religious nuns, many nieces and nephews and her sisters in community.

The funeral mass will be offered in the convent chapel in Mokama followed by burial at the nearby cemetery.

Sister Ann Roberta adopted fully Indian way of life. She had an extremely good memory that she could recall in detail her trips to India and all the events with names of people and places. She was the last American SCN to be the member of India Province.

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