March 1, 2023 | Obituaries
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Fr. Richard Powers greets seminarian Matt Millay and the future Fr. Martin Ma Na Ling, then a seminarian, at the Vocare vocations celebration on Sept. 20, 2019. Fr. Powers served as one of the guest speakers that evening. FILE PHOTO

‘Joyful, generous and kind’

Fr. Richard Powers, 90, missed for his ‘humility’ and ‘deep love’


Fr. J. Patrick Reynolds, in offering the homily at the Feb. 20 funeral of Fr. Richard Powers, referenced an experience shared by most people who ever met Fr. Powers – be they 15 or 85.

“Child of God, where have you been?” Fr. Powers would ask.

Fr. Reynolds called Fr. Powers “an exemplary role model as a priest,” citing the several hours per day spent before Our Lord in the Eucharist.

Fr. Reynolds said the rosary and breviary were two “best friends” of Fr. Powers, who passed away on Feb. 13 at age 90.

“He showed all of us what must take place in our own spiritual lives and journeys – that (God) must increase and I must decrease,” said Fr. Reynolds, referencing the Gospel read at the liturgy.

Fr. Powers born Oct. 6, 1932, in Curdsville, to the late Joseph Hubert and Teresa M. (McCarty) Powers. One of 12 children, Fr. Powers received his early education at St. Elizabeth Parish and School in Curdsville.

Remembering her brother, whom she always called “my buddy,” one of Maddalena Leach’s favorite childhood memories of Fr. Powers is when their mother asked if he had said his bedtime prayers.

While the boy said yes, their mother wisely followed up with “When?”

“When I was going up the stairs!” replied the precocious future priest – foreshadowing the humor-loving yet faithful nature that would touch countless souls in his vocation for the Diocese of Owensboro.

Following his seminary studies at St. Meinrad College in St. Meinrad, IN, and St. Maur’s Seminary in South Union, Ky., he was ordained a priest by Bishop Francis R. Cotton on May 1, 1959. He had the distinction of being the third son in his family of 12 children to become a priest.

Charlie Hardesty, director of the diocese’s youth and young adult ministry office, looks up as Fr. Richard Powers speaks at a Theology on Tap young adult gathering at Fetta Pizza in Owensboro on April 9, 2018. FILE PHOTO

After his ordination he was the associate pastor at St. Stephen Cathedral for one year, then the associate pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Paducah for one year. In 1961, he was made the associate pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Henderson where he remained for four years. Fr. Powers then became the associate pastor of Sts. Joseph and Paul Parish in 1965, where he served for two years. From 1967 until 1970, he served as pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Calvert City, then in 1970 became pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green. In 1972, he became pastor of St. Sebastian Parish in Calhoun, until 1974 when he became pastor of St. Peter of Alcantara Parish in Stanley. Fr. Powers was also the vocations director for the Diocese of Owensboro from 1972 until 1976. In 1976, Fr. Powers became the pastor of Precious Blood Parish where he remained for six years.

In 1982 he entered the United States Navy as a chaplain and served in the position until 1989. In 1990, he became the pastor of Immaculate Parish in Owensboro for five years, and in 1995 was made the pastor of St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Whitesville. Fr. Powers became the pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Sorgho, then retired from active ministry in 2007. He lived at St. Alphonsus Parish and served the Diocese of Owensboro when requested.

Fr. Powers loved his family and celebrating Christmas in July with his siblings.

Robbie Knott, one of Fr. Powers’ many nieces and nephews, said that Fr. Powers changed the trajectory of Knott’s life in 2005, when he encouraged Knott to assist on a youth mission trip.

“I’m a youth minister now, really involved with the Church, and have gone on multiple mission trips around the United States,” said Knott, who most recently led a mission trip to Guatemala. “He was a great mentor to me.”

Knott said he was one of the family members present during Fr. Powers’ last moments, and had the blessing of praying the rosary for him.

“I felt so honored to say the rosary for the last time for him; there’s no knowing how many thousands of rosaries he’s prayed for our family over his life,” said Knott.

Sr. Maria Carmelita Navarro Carmel, DCJ, local superior for the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, who operate the Carmel Home where Fr. Powers resided in his final years, said that when someone would ask, “How are you doing, Father?” he would “almost always feigning distress,” answer, ‘Terrible, terrible! Poor Father!’”

“And laughter would ensue,” said Sr. Navarro.

She said Fr. Powers “loved and lived among friends” at the Carmel Home and that “he was a great priest and confessor.”

“He was joyful , generous and kind,” said Sr. Navarro. “I knew he was loved by the sisters, residents, staff, family members, and visitors but I am just now realizing the extent of how much he touched our lives by the expressions of grief since his death. We miss him at Holy Mass, we miss him in the Chapel spending time with our Lord, we miss him at our 3:30 p.m. Rosary, we miss him hanging out at the reception desk, we miss him chatting with everyone, we miss his smiling face as he walked the hallways, we miss the sound of his voice and laughter… we miss our friend and are thankful to the Lord for the time we had with Fr. Richard. He was a joy!”

Fr. Powers was known for his love of nature, especially flowers, and for spending time at his log cabin, boating, and going on mission trips. He often donated to the missions in Haiti, having led trips there in his earlier years, and was an inspiration to youth ministry leaders.

“I was always moved by Fr. Richard’s humility,” said Charlie Hardesty, director of the diocese’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “The night we asked him to speak at a Theology on Tap, he was so nervous and said he wasn’t sure what he had to offer. He then proceeded to break open his deep love of the Eucharist, priesthood, and the Church. We paid him that night with a Red Lobster gift card and he promptly took me out to eat with it. I will deeply miss his presence in our diocese.”

In addition to his parents, Fr. Powers was preceded in death by his sisters, Mary Agnes Powers, Patricia Garvin, Elizabeth M. Lattus, and Celine M. Kahalley; and his brothers, Joseph H. Powers Jr., Fr. Aloysius F. Powers, and Robert A. Powers.

He is survived by his siblings, Msgr. Bernard A. Powers, Martha M. Taylor, Mary Teresa Hayden (Don), and Maddalena Leach.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Feb. 20 at St. Stephen Cathedral with Fr. Freddie Byrd as presider. Burial followed in Mount Saint Joseph Cemetery. Expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to the Carmel Home, 2501 Old Hartford Road, Owensboro, KY, 42303.

Fr. Richard Powers at the Carmel Home, with a statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. COURTESY OF CARMEL HOME

Originally printed in the March 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Current Issue

Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
Send change of address requests to [email protected]