Colleagues Mourn the Passing of a Catholic Journalism and PR Virtuoso

Sister Mary Ann Walsh was 68.

In November 2012, Sister Mary Ann Walsh introduced as part of her U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops media relations duties a blog post format that amounted to a tip sheet of five relevant news items and tidbits.

This week, in the wake of Walsh’s passing at age 68 from recurring cancer, her former USCCB colleagues (she left the fold last fall) are using that same “Five Things” format to pay tribute to her life as a journalist and PR person:

1. Mary Ann Walsh was born and raised in Albany, New York. She joined the Sisters of Mercy at the age of 17 and celebrated her jubilee year last October. The word “mercy” brought an easy smile to her face. She believed in her mission.

In the days following Pope Francis’ election, she picked up on his emphasis then on mercy. Her last piece for America magazine, where she had been working since last September, was on the pope’s call for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. She wrote March 25, “Pope Francis has made mercy a key theme of his pontificate and has spoken of an ‘age of mercy.’ People listen to him. There is a huge need for mercy in today’s society where hurt abounds in many areas. People seem open to mercy, which emphasizes forgiveness over judgment, as never before. We need this.”

When Walsh joined the USCCB in 1993, she was the first woman to hold the position of director of media relations. After seguing to America magazine last fall as U.S. church correspondent, she continued to write for them as she battled the cancer. Warm memories are also being shared by the Catholic News Service, where she was once Vatican correspondent and media editor:

Phil Pullella, senior correspondent in Italy and the Vatican for Reuters, told of his friendship with Sister Mary Ann that began when she was a reporter in Rome for Catholic News Service.

“I always called her ‘Mother Mary’ and she always called me ‘my son,'” he said in a note to CNS. “Mary Ann was an exceptionally generous woman… When she moved to America magazine, she wrote some of the clearest insightful, informed and entertaining columns about the U.S. church that I have ever read.”

In March, Walsh received the St. Francis de Sales Award, which honors lifetime achievements, from the Catholic Press Association. The America magazine obituary is here. RIP.