In 1970, when Felician Sister Donna Marie Trukowski first entered St. Thomas Aquinas High School as the chairperson of the mathematics department and as a teacher, the school was less than a year old. Now – after having shepherded the school through a building expansion, its 50th anniversary, and a global pandemic – she will retire in June, leaving behind a lasting legacy and generations of grateful students and families.
Sister Donna, as she is affectionately called by those who know her, served as the school’s principal for over 37 years until she was appointed as the school’s first president in 2020.
“It was a big change for me when I was appointed as president,” said Sister Donna, noting the adjustment from overseeing the day-to-day operations as principal to overseeing the key areas of school mission, financial management, facilities, alumni relations, and fundraising as president. “I have always enjoyed working with the students and helping to pass on the Catholic faith to future generations, so this change will be an even bigger adjustment for me.”
When she first announced her retirement to Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio and Ellen Ayoub, diocesan secretary for education, there was a heaviness in the air, which was then quickly replaced with joyful gratitude.
“Sister Donna has served our school community so well over these many years,” said Bishop Checchio. “It is certainly difficult to see her retire, but it is also fulfilling to know the impact she has made during her time at the school. She has been a constant source of strength for the school community and has, indeed, been a constant source of the Light of Christ for the many students under her care and their families. I am grateful to her for her faithful service to Catholic education and I know those she served will continue to do well in carrying forward the Light of Christ, which she devotedly shared with them.”
A Bayonne native, Sister Donna was first introduced to religious life and to her passion for education while attending Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in the city.
“The religious sisters who were serving in the school at the time had such zeal and joy, and an undeniable love for the Lord,” Sister Donna said, reflecting on her admiration for them. “I was drawn to their happiness and their compassion for others. I knew I wanted the same for myself and I wanted to make the kind of difference I saw them make through their vocational ministry each day.”
After enrolling in Jersey City State College for a year, Sister Donna entered the religious congregation in 1962. This year, she celebrates her 60th anniversary as a Felician Sister, a religious community marked by their “service of God and His people, so that in all and by all, God may be known, loved and glorified,” she added.
“I pray that my time in this school community has done just that – that my ‘service of God and His people’ in our school community has impacted and helped to fortify the faculty, students and their families, to go forward and proclaim the word of God, ‘so that in all and by all, God may be known, loved and glorified,’ ” said Sister Donna.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Felician College, Lodi, the began her career in Catholic education at St. Francis de Sales School, Lodi; Holy Cross School, Trenton; St. John Kanty School, Clifton; and St. Anthony High School, Jersey City.
Sister Donna first joined the staff of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Edison, in 1970; she served as mathematics department chairperson and teacher, mini-course coordinator, cheerleading moderator and bookstore manager. Simultaneously, she earned her state certification and master’s degree in mathematics at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Feeling it was time for a new challenge, she accepted the position of principal of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Wallington, and after a three-year term at the Bergen County school, she returned to St. Thomas Aquinas High School as principal.
In her tenure at the diocese’s co-educational college preparatory school, she has overseen advancements in technology for the school, the adoption of more athletic programs and extra-curricular activities, and a 12-year building and reconstruction project.
True to her vocation and calling to serve in boundless love and compassionate service, she humbly credited her success at the school to those who worked alongside her all these years.
“This school community – the students I have taught, the families I have served, and the faculty members and clergy whom I have worked with – has been a big part of my life and a big part of my religious vocation for a long time,” said Sister Donna. “I am grateful to them each day for the joy they brought me, and sometimes even the headaches, over these years,” she said with a smile.
“While I may no longer have responsibilities for the school, or a desk or office space there, the school community is ingrained in who I am and will forever be a part of my vocational story and my life,” she said proudly. “My hope and my prayer, as the school heads into its next 50 years, is that future generations of students can continue to find a home at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, one rooted in faith, dedicated to knowledge, and forever working to ensure their success.”
St. Thomas Aquinas High School is now enrolling for the 2022-23 school year. To learn more about the school, visit stahs.net.
* This information was provided by the Diocese of Metuchen.