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Cecilia Tolusciak was born on April 14, 1917 in the Polish Hill section of Pittsburgh. Her parents Basil and Theophilia (Bielewicz) presented Cecilia for baptism at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Raised in Pittsburgh, she attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School and was a member of the historic parish on Polish Hill, one of the city’s oldest and largest churches. Before graduating from Mount Nazareth Academy and entering the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth she was a young athlete. She excelled at basketball and tennis and developed a teamwork principle that would guide her entire life. Cecilia became a Postulant on November 5, 1933, was given the name Sr. Mary Aquinas as a novice on July 16, 1934, and professed her perpetual vows July 16, 1942.
Sr. Aquinas began preparing herself for a life of service in education, earning a bachelor’s degree at Villa Maria College, a theology degree at Carlow College and a master’s from Duquesne University. She did graduate work at the University of Notre Dame, Ohio University and the University of Rochester. She taught 32 years in schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. She gained guidance counselor certification in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan and served at Bishop Guilfoyle High School, Altoona PA, as a guidance counselor and assistant principal. In 1974, Sr. Aquinas left education and became part of Mercy Hospital where she served for the next 40 years. Mercy Hospital became Bon Secours-Holy Family, and is now UPMC, Altoona. While the name changed, two things remained the same---a dedication to community health care and Sr. Aquinas. She was 97 years old when she retired in November 2014 and joined her sisters a Holy Family Manor in Pittsburgh.
Much more could be said for a dedicated life of 88 years as a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth and 104 years celebrating life. However, it was always Sr. Aquinas’ wish that at the time of her death there be no fanfare and no long words about her life of service. She wanted simplicity and privacy. In life, she never sought publicity or popularity. In death, she wanted the same.
She passed away on July 19, 2021. Her Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated on July 28.