Sister Ellen Powers, CSJ

(Sister John Eleanor)

November 12, 1941 – August 8, 2023

 We Remember Her
In the blueness of the skies and
in the
warmth of summer

Our first reading from Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, plans to give you a future with hope.” How meaningful these words must have been for Ellen as she journeyed through her life. She was always open to God’s plan for her. Often in her lifetime, she worked with others to provide hope-filled futures!

Ellen Marie Powers was born in East Walpole on November 12, 1941, to John and Eleanor Jarvis Powers. Her mother, Eleanor, and her Aunt Elizabeth were identical twins. Living just a couple of miles apart, the two families grew up together. This was such a gift for Ellen, as she was an only child and there were six children in the Brady family. 



After graduating from Walpole High School, Ellen attended Regis College where she majored in biology. In 1963, upon graduation, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, receiving the name “Sister John Eleanor.” Very soon, she began her extended career in education following in the footsteps of her father, (a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in Walpole) and her aunt Sister Paschaline, CSJ.

As a teacher and principal at Marian High School, as principal of North Cambridge Catholic, and as president of North Cambridge Catholic as it became a Cristo Rey school, Sister Ellen worked tirelessly with staff to provide an atmosphere where students of all cultures and economic backgrounds could grow, mature, and experience success.  This was her dream. After 32 years in Catholic School Leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston, in 2006, Sister Ellen was elected to Leadership in the Congregation. Following her six years in Congregation Leadership as an Area Councilor, Sister Ellen returned to her first love education as Regional Director at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. Throughout her years in ministry, Ellen served on leadership boards for Fontbonne Academy, Regis College, the NCEA, as well as many task forces, bringing a wealth of experience and practical information.

For many of these years, Ellen lived in Walpole with her father, enabling him to live his older years in the home and community he loved. With her in Walpole was her dear friend, Sister Lorraine McLaughlin, with whom she ministered and lived in Framingham and in Cambridge. Sister Ellen listened attentively to God’s plan as she strove to provide “A future full of hope for others.”

Our Constitution says in the quote on your program, “We strive in every aspect of our lives to be for others a visible sign of God’s presence and active love.” Sister Ellen lived this passage every day. In the words of teachers on her staff, “Sister Ellen develops the hidden potential of her colleagues. No school has ever had a more compassionate, caring, loving, dedicated leader when it was most needed.”  “She has a strong vision – she consistently works and challenges others to work toward that vision.” 

Sister Ellen’s theme for students was always, “strive to be the best that you can be.”

Ellen worked with her colleagues to foster the vitality of city schools, and to develop in students the skills and motivation to enable them to create a successful future for themselves and their families. Her calming influence and knowledgeable guidance enabled her to be a visible sign of God’s active, inclusive love.

Always aware of the individual needs of others, Ellen was a listening and guiding presence in the lives of the sisters during her years as Area Counselor. During this time, she became involved with The Safe House Task Force, The Anti-Trafficking Coalition, and Mil Milagros Task Force for Guatemala. Her concern was always about reaching out to others with respect and dignity. Her dedication to these issues continued after she left leadership.

Our Gospel reading was chosen by Ellen and lived very faithfully by her. It reminds us:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, who hunger, who thirst for righteousness, who are persecuted, they shall receive a helping hand.”

Thank you, Ellen, for the many ways you provided your helping hand God’s helping hand within educational, Congregational, and familial situations. We know that you now experience that future full of hope which God has promised and prepared for you.

Given by Mary Ellen O’Connell, CSJ

August 14, 2023