Camille Panich, SCN, principal at Vincentian Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa., spoke about Antoinette Kostelnik, SCN, and the Women of Courage Award that she received on April 27, 2012.

It is certainly appropriate that the first Women of Courage Award be presented to Sister Antoinette Kostelnik, SCN. Sister Antoinette has indeed kept our heritage alive and continued the legacy of Vincentian Academy while furthering the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Sister herself is a Vincentian graduate from the days when it was an all girls’ boarding school. She returned to teach at Vincentian in 1978 just a few years after the school had become co-ed.

Sister Antoinette began her teaching career 4 years before I was born, yet there have been many days, even during this current academic year, which was her 67th year of teaching, when I was put to shame by her energy and enthusiasm.

Sister’s teaching ministry included a number of years in various Catholic grade schools in the Pittsburgh and Greensburg dioceses as well as a few years in Missouri. Then after some years at Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead she came back to Vincentian. Throughout her career in all of those places, her goal was to teach her students the faith and how it applies to their present lives and in the future for which she so lovingly prepared them.

Sister has always seen the good in young people, helping them to realize their potential for holiness, greatness, and love. I remember that Sister Antoinette has said that she looks forward to one day meeting her students in God’s Kingdom where they will see Him face to face, but I know that there are literally thousands of Sister Antoinette’s students who have seen the face of God when they interact with her.
It takes a woman of courage to lead young people on their journey of faith, to help them learn how to respond with generous hearts as they build character and learn to make sound moral decisions. Sister Antoinette Kostelnik is definitely a woman of great courage in today’s world and it is a great pleasure to present the Women of Courage award to her this evening. Congratulations Sister!

The Women of Courage Award captures the richness of our roots as an all-girls school and the courage of two women and their companions living in different centuries whose lives intersected along the Ohio River between Pittsburgh PA and Louisville, KY with the merger of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity into the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in November 2008.

Mother Emerentiana Handlovits and her companions were missioned in 1902 from Szatmar, Romania to Braddock, PA to minister to the Slovak immigrants. Mother Emerentiana became the first Provincial Superior of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity because she was the first to volunteer, an act of great courage to travel to a distant land in response to an expressed need of the people for education in their native language.

Mother Catherine Spalding migrated as a young girl with a group of Catholic families from southern MD to Bardstown KY. At the young age of 19 she became the first elected superior of the small band of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth founded in 1812. She too courageously embarked on an effort to respond to the educational needs of her time.

The lives of these women of courage, along with the graduates of our school, inspire us to continue the mission of excellence in education handed down through the centuries in a powerful blending of the charism of charity.

It is our hope that Women of Courage will become a prestigious award not only because of the legacy of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, not only as a powerful reminder of our roots as an all-girls school, but also because of the individuals who will receive the award because they give life to the legacy and spirit it represents.