From seed of an idea, Woman of Faith Award becomes tradition

Dr. Mary Kay Balchunas, 2015 Woman of Faith, with 2018 Woman of Faith Shelly Runte

Call it coincidence that our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA coincides with the 20th Annual Woman of Faith Award this year. Back in 2001, then-Provincial Leader Sister Sheila Novak started the award to shine a light on exemplary servant leadership by women in the greater Milwaukee area. The award recognizes women whose faith-inspired service models our Salvatorian core values of responsible stewardship, promoting justice, collaboration and improving quality of life, all with a preferential option for the poor.

Establishing the annual award program dovetailed with Sr. Sheila’s lifelong commitment to champion women for their remarkable achievements. “It seemed like a good way to recognize women for their various efforts, as well as highlight their particular cause,” says Sister Sheila today. “Women do the lion’s share of most work, and get little or no recognition. Raising up women lets children and men see what women are capable of and hopefully takes them into account.”

Danae Davis, our 2012 Woman of Faith

Each year on April 1 we open the call for nominations and share criteria our committee uses to discern the nominee most deserving of the Woman of Faith Award: 

  • Actively lives a life of service inspired by the Gospel
  • Positively impacts and enriches the lives of people in need
  • Fosters respect among people and builds a spirit of community through her life and work
  • Heightens awareness of people in need through her service
  • Elicits support from others through her servant leadership

While Sister Sheila hasn’t been able to attend the annual award presentations since moving to California more than 16 years ago, she’s grateful the award has endured. “I had no idea how long it would last,” she says, “but since women are so vital in society, I think it could go on forever. We will never run out of women doing wonderful things for others!”

Sr. Beverly Heitke with Carla Del Pozo, our 2020 Woman of Faith

Since 2001, we’ve honored 20 women who have served a wide variety of needs among some of southeastern Wisconsin’s most vulnerable people.  The very first award went to Betty Thompson, retired executive director of Project Equality of Wisconsin. In 2020, we honored Carla Del Pozo for her work as director of Clinical Services at Milwaukee’s CORE El Centro. Due to constraints imposed by the pandemic, Carla’s award presentation was livestreamed to all but a handful of in-person guests. But in keeping with tradition, we presented Carla with a framed print from Sister Karlyn Cauley’s watercolor Woman Series, inscribed with her name and a passage adapted from Romans 14:7, “The faith life of each of us influences others.” Carla’s name has also been inscribed on Sr. Karlyn’s large watercolor artwork that graces the wall in the main hallway at our Community House.

Profiles of our Woman of Faith Award recipients are found here.

Our 125 Year Celebration

As we look back on our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA, we invite you to reminisce with us. We've launched all 5 time lines with historical milestones and stories that bring to life the experiences of our sisters who came before us.

Era 1: 1895-1920
Responding to Immigrant Needs

The missionary response of hearty immigrant women religious characterizes the first 25 years of Salvatorian Sisters’ presence in the United States ...

Era 2: 1920-1950
Expanding in an “American” Church

By 1920, life for a Salvatorian Sister in the USA was radically different than it had been 25 years earlier. World War I ....

Era 3: 1950-1970
Embracing Renewal

Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A Changing, captures the high energy of this era.  Change was afoot both outside and inside the Salvatorian convent walls...

Era 4: 1970-2000
Building Collaboration

Events of the mid-1960s renewed the collaborative energy that had always characterized Salvatorian life. Cloistered living ...

Era 5: 2000-2020
Searching for New Footing in a Changing World

When the new millennium arrived on January 1, 2000, Salvatorian Sisters were already five years into our second century on USA soil.  Our ...