Sister Maura Power, RSM: Educator and Health Care Pioneer

For more than 50 years, Sister Maura Power has served many different communities and touched countless lives throughout Northern California, as an elementary and high school teacher and parish educator. She has also had a great impact on our community through her role in a critical decision that would change the landscape of health care in our region for generations to come.

Sister Maura grew up in Dublin, Ireland. She was drawn to religious life while in high school and after graduation came to California in 1954 to join the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn. She spent many years teaching in Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Sacramento. Her teaching also extended into local parishes where she was able to do what she truly felt called to do - teach bible studies. “That is something I really enjoyed,” Sister Maura said.

In 1982, Sister Maura began what would be eight years serving as Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn. At that time, the Sisters’ health care ministry included five hospitals in Sacramento and Northern California. Looking to the future, the Sisters recognized that health care was changing. “We began conversing with the Sisters of Mercy Burlingame,” Sister Maura remembers. “To explore the possibilities of collaboration.”  

At that time, Sisters of Mercy Burlingame had five hospitals located in California and Arizona. “By becoming one strong, unified system (ten hospitals) we would be better positioned to serve the people of our respective areas within California and Arizona.”

In 1986, this vision was achieved and Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) was established. CHW signified the coming together of the health care ministries of the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn and Burlingame. From the beginning, the mission and values of CHW mirrored what had always been the vision behind the Sisters’ health care ministry: To provide excellent and compassionate care to those in need. 

Today, under the name Dignity Health, the system continues to thrive and grow. Dignity Health is comprised of more than 60,000 caregivers and staff, serving communities in 20 states. It is one of the nation’s largest health care systems dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality and affordable patient-centered care.   

Looking back, Sister Maura is proud of the decision made nearly 30 years ago. “It was not an easy decision and the process at times was quite difficult,” she says. “It was the right direction for hospitals and for the communities they serve, especially given how health care has evolved. We will stay involved in raising the issues and the questions that today’s health care environment presents.”

Looking to the future, Sister Maura hopes to continue working in some aspect of Adult Education which she enjoys so much. As for the congregation she joined more than 50 years ago, she recognizes that there is still the call for ministry today. “We will continue to do our best. The Sisters’ of Mercy dedication to prayer and service will always continue.”