Franciscan friars Father James McCurry, OFM left and Bishop Hartmayer, OFM Conv. right pose with the recipients and recipient repreentatives of the 2020 Marian Awards presented Feb. 3 in Saint Mary’s Chapel at the Cathoilc Pastoral Center, Savannah. Back
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Marian Awards presented in recognition of consecrated life in service to the diocese

Originally Appeared in : Vol. 100 No. 04

The Marian Awards are presented by Bishop Hartmayer to persons in consecrated life who have given long years of service with the qualities of Mary, Mother of God. Each recipient has served in the Diocese of Savannah for considerably more than 15 years.

Sister Mary Assunta Desposito, SM has served in the Diocese of Savannah since 1966. In Savannah, she has ministered as a teacher and principal at Nativity and St. Peter the Apostle Schools. After retiring from elementary school education, she joined the staff of St. Josephs/Candler Health System, working as an educator. Sister Mary Assunta was nominated for the Marian Award because of her quiet virtues, steadfastness, and her readiness to say ”yes” when asked to serve, even when the way ahead was not clear.
Sister Grace Marie Dillard, RSM served the people of God in the Diocese of Savannah for 47 years as an educator for many of those years at Mt. DeSales in Macon and St. Anne Pacelli School in Columbus. Sister Grace Marie worked in Mission Services at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System. She now lives in the Mercy retirement convent in Savannah. The people of St. Anne Parish in Columbus, where she lived before moving to Savannah, nominated her in recognition of her service in the Community Outreach program of St. Anne parish.
One of those who nominated her wrote of her time at St. Anne Community Outreach, “I stand in admiration of this great lady. As we meted out food and clothing, she seemed to go far beyond taking care of the physical needs, quietly and reverently. All of her clients went away with food and clothing for their families, but more importantly, with food for their souls.”
Sister Janet Fischer, FSPA is the only sister serving in Claxton, GA. She came to Claxton in 1980, and despite all kinds of changes, has stayed as a well-beloved and energetic servant of the community for forty years. Sister Janet has done pastoral work during all of those years, sometimes in an official capacity and sometimes in a simple response to the needs of her neighbors. Her selflessness, fidelity to Catholic Social Teaching, and simplicity led to her nomination. One of those who nominated her said,
“Janet’s faithfulness to Jesus, Gospel and Franciscan living is evident in her life and worthy of the Marian award.”
Father Ronald Gatman, OSB has been a religion teacher and chaplain at Benedictine Military Academy in Savannah, since 1979. He is a supportive presence to the Cadets at the many events and activities of the school. In addition, he is called on by alumni to perform weddings and baptisms and for other pastoral needs.
Father Ronald participated faithfully in the annual retreat for divorced Catholics sponsored by the Department of Family Life of the diocese. His ready sense of humor, his spirituality, and his reliability made it easy to call upon him to fill special needs. He has taught theology courses to the Carmelite novices for some years. Father Gatman’s willingness to serve with simplicity, humor and deep spirituality led to his receiving the Marian Award.
Sister Anna Brigid Kearns, CSJ has been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for over 70 years. For many years she has ministered in the Diocese of Savannah in education, most recently at St. Francis Xavier School Brunswick. When she retired after 50 years of full time teaching Sister Anna Brigid continued to substitute at the school and began to volunteer in several ministries in Brunswick. Her work with hospice patients eventually developed into a bereavement ministry. She also volunteered at The Well, a day shelter in downtown Brunswick for people who are homeless.
Sister Anna Brigid was nominated for the Marian Award because of her faith despite difficulties and her willingness to serve wherever the need arose. She has recently moved into her community’s retirement setting in St. Louis, Missouri.
Sister Joan Serda, RSM has served in the Diocese of Savannah for 24 years. She was the principal of St. Joseph School in Macon for 11 years. After several years of community leadership in Baltimore, she returned to the diocese to live in Macon, where she served in a variety of volunteer ministries. She tutored at St. Peter Claver School, taught religious education at Holy Spirit Parish, served on the Mt. De Sales board of trustees, and engaged in Social Justice activities on behalf of her community. All this time she has been a caregiver, supporting persons with disabilities and medical needs. Sister Joan’s concern for Catholic Social Teaching, especially regarding racism; her willingness to respond to needs selflessly and generously; and her willingness to stand up for others led to her nomination for the Marian Award. Sister Joan is moving to Mobile, Alabama in March.
Sister Jude Walsh, RSM was born and educated in Savannah. She was principal at St. Vincent’s for 27 years.
Sister Jude was a teacher, then a principal at four Savannah schools: Nativity School, Blessed Sacrament School, Cathedral Day School and St. Vincent’s Academy. She has also served on the Boards of St. Joseph/Candler Health System and St. Vincent’s Academy.

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