Sister Concepta Stanko

We commend to your charity the soul of our beloved

Sister Concepta Stanko

who departed this life on August 30, 2012

in the seventy-seventh year of her religious life

Age: 94 years, 4 months, 10 days

Resurrection Service: Tuesday, September, 4, 2012 at 4 p.m.

From her earliest years in Community, even to her passing into eternal life, Sister Concepta was aware of a call, not just the initial call to religious life, but the ongoing call that guided her response to the mission of the Congregation and its ministries. Like Ruth, in the Hebrew Scriptures, she knew that wherever she went, she was preceded by her Provident God.

Sister Concepta, baptized Dorothy Marie, was the second of ten children born to Mary Kozusko and John Stanko. Dorothy entered the Community from St. Michael’s Parish in Brownstown (Johnstown). Throughout her life, Sister Concepta maintained close bonds with her family, even when separated from them by distance.

As a young religious, Sister Concepta never dreamed of being a missionary. After teaching in the elementary schools of the diocese of Pittsburgh for 11 years, she was asked to go to Puerto Rico in 1949. Her mother had passed away the year before, and she did not want to leave her father. After saying “no” to the first two requests, Sister Concepta, the reluctant missionary, finally said “yes.” Her total of 31 years in Puerto Rico would prove that she indeed had a true missionary heart. She was willing to step outside of her comfort zone, away from family and friends, away from the culture, language, and social structures to which she was accustomed in order to educate, to heal, to bring hope, in a territory unknown to her.

Sister Concepta taught in the elementary schools in Utuado and Arecibo for eight years. She also traveled to the Campos on weekends to teach religion classes to the poor children who lived on the outskirts of town. The one constant in her life in her early years as a missionary was support of her Sisters in community who helped each other to endure the hardships of missionary work. The Sisters in Puerto Rico experienced the support and prayers from the Sisters “back home” as well. Intercommunity collaboration was also strong. The Sisters of all religious communities who served in Puerto Rico came together regularly to pray, socialize, and offer support to each other knowing that they were all far from home. After eight years on the Island, Concepta was asked to return to the States to be principal of St. Anne’s School in Castle Shannon and to serve as local superior (1957–63). At that time, St. Anne’s was the largest school in the diocese, with 800 children enrolled. During the time of her administration, the school would enroll 1,600 students. The parish built a new church and convent. The 32 Sisters assigned to St. Anne’s moved into their new convent in 1963. Shortly after that, Sister Concepta received a call to return to Puerto Rico. She served there another 23 years. During those years, she was principal at each of the three elementary schools staffed by the Community: San Miguel in Utuado, San Juan Bautista in Oracovis, and San Felipe in Arecibo. She guided San Felipe through Middle States accreditation.

Sister Concepta’s early years as a missionary shaped her for her next ministries. On her return from Puerto Rico, she would return to Castle Shannon. This time she answered the call to be director of the recently established St. Anne’s Day Care, which eventually became Providence Child Care Center South. She no longer shied away from new ventures. She ran a quality childcare program for 11 years. Just short of her 80th birthday, Sister Concepta embraced her final ministry, one to which she was faithful for the rest of her life. In order to enable Sister Alicia Schweitzer, with whom she served in Puerto Rico, to stay in active parish ministry longer, she agreed to form community with her and do the things for Sister Alicia that she was unable to do for herself because of early onset of Parkinson’s disease. This ministry would take Sister Concepta to St. Mary’s Parish in Export, Pa., for four years and to St. Anthony’s Parish in Charleston, WV, for nine months. Sister Concepta returned to the Provincial House with Sister Alicia in January 2003. Until her final illness, Sister Concepta served in this supportive ministry with Sister Alicia. It was a relationship reminiscent of our biblical foremothers, Ruth and Naomi.

Until the very end, Sister Concepta could pray, “Wherever I go, Provident God, You go before me. I depend on you for all I need for comfort and survival. Your people will be my people, and You will always be my God.”

Birthday: April 20

Written by Sister Maria Fest

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed an obituary  and a beautiful article about Sister Concepta’s life.

If you would like to make a gift to the Sisters of Divine Providence in memory of Sister Concepta, visit our donation page.