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July 18, 2021

New palliative care chaplain: ‘I find deep meaning in what I do’

IU Health University Hospital

New palliative care chaplain: ‘I find deep meaning in what I do’

She didn’t just wake up one day and decide to become a chaplain. Jodi Powers’ life has been a series of chapters that brought her to IU Health.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

She grew up in one of the oldest cities in the United States – the costal community of St. Augustine, Fla. – known for its Spanish architecture. Her family – including five siblings - frequently took night walks to the “Castillo de San Marcos,” a fort located on the western shore of Matanzas Bay.

“I felt safe but I knew there was more of the world to see,” said Powers, 48. So she got a degree in information technology, landed a job with one of the top-consulting firms in the country and traveled for her work. She was in her 20s living out what she calls her “dream job.”

“I was making money for people who had a lot of money – Fortune 500 companies – but there was an emptiness,” said Powers. So she began to find ways to fill that emptiness – soul searching. She sold her car, took her savings and headed overseas. Twenty years ago, she began cycling around France, the same time, coincidentally as the Tour de France. For three months, she enrolled in a French immersion language program in Nice, right on the Mediterranean Sea. She also spent time in the Netherlands.

In her late 20s Powers returned to the States picked up different jobs but still felt lost.

“I thought this journey was about self discovery, that things would open up and I would find my purpose but it didn’t happen,” said Powers. In her 30s she lived in an Ashram in Virginia and helped organize spiritual retreats. “I did everything from chopping vegetables for meals to housekeeping,” she said. In the tradition of the spiritual hermitage she also studied Hinduism, with an interfaith component, and meditation through yoga.

“It was a beautiful peaceful setting that allowed me to tune out distractions. When you get stuck with those distractions it’s like you have ‘monkey mind,’ and sometimes ‘drunken monkey mind.’ This allowed me to focus on a path and walk that path,” said Powers. That path was a focus that involved serving others.

She was in her early 30s and moved to Florida where she attended massage therapy school and also began volunteering with hospice. The serving component began to crystalize her purpose. When someone suggested she become a hospital chaplain Powers said, “A light bulb went off.” She didn’t realize at the time the education and preparation that went into her new career. Soon after her 40th birthday she obtained her Masters in Divinity and completed the requirements that brought her to IU Health for her residency. Power completed her residency in 2013 with a specialty in trauma. She worked at another hospital in behavior health chaplaincy and two months ago joined IU Health University Hospital’s palliative care team.

“I found healing in seminary. I know what it is to suffer and I don’t want that for anybody and I also know what it is to have someone walk with me in that pain,” said Powers. In her role at IU Health she said her focus is to bring peace to patients when they are faced with the most difficult time of their lives.

“I always meet them where they are. I try to visit as many people as I can to make sure they know the chaplaincy is available. They don’t need to be religious. We’re all spiritual,” said Powers. Sometimes she talks to them about her cats – she has three – and sometimes she talks on a deeper level pondering their existential questions.

“We are a death denying society. We don’t know how to deal with it. A lot of what I talk with patients about is what loss of life looks like. I find deep meaning in what I do,” said Powers.

When she’s not working with patients, Powers enjoys spending time with her husband, Doug Powers. They enjoy hiking at Eagle Creek. “Nature soothes my soul,” she said.

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