St. Bernard's Presents Alumni/ae Awards

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry Presents Two New Alumni/ae Awards


St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry recently recognized two alums for a lifetime of service and ministry.   Sister Gratia L’Esperance, RSM, received the Lifetime Ministry Award and Deacon John McDermott received the Exemplary Service and Ministry Award. These awards recognize St. Bernard’s graduates who demonstrate exceptional service in the ministry of the Catholic Church and who, through their service and faithfulness, honor the tradition and ongoing vision of St. Bernard’s.


Sister Gratia was the first woman graduate of St. Bernard’s, graduating in 1972 with the equivalent of today’s Masters of Divinity degree.  Her ministry has been relevant and far reaching. Of particular note is her work in the area of women and ministry. She is a founding member of the Rochester Regional Task Force on Women in the Church and through her encouragement, research and vision, has made remarkable contributions in this area. Sr. Gratia is also Past President and current Board member of The Interfaith Alliance. In an era when hostilities between faiths have wrought such enormous destruction, Gratia has become a force in fostering understanding and respect among diverse faiths. Finally, the award recognized Gratia’s work at the Mercy Center with the Aging. Once again, Gratia is at the forefront of a movement of the church and society, conducted and built on her earlier experience with grace and insight.


Deacon John McDermott, who graduated in 2004 with a MA (Pastoral Studies), was honored with St. Bernard’s Exemplary Service and Ministry Award. Specifically, St. Bernard’s recognized Deacon McDermott’s work directly with people in crisis. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Deacon McDermott, like so many others, wanted to help, and was willing and able to do what ever it took to make a difference. He began working with the office of Catholic Charities to coordinate the diocesan response to Katrina. John, along with the head of Catholic Charities in New Orleans, devised the Neighbor to Neighbor Program that provided the organizational structure for coordinating aid from other dioceses with needs in and around New Orleans. Forty two local parishes participated in the program. Because of the work of Deacon John McDermott, The Church was able to provide assistance –in some cases continuing assistance- to the people of New Orleans. Deacon McDermott continues to reach out and serve people in need, most recently traveling to the Holy Land with Catholic Relief Services’ Global Fellows program, a program which helps Deacons and Priests tell the story of people in crisis and what CRS is doing to help those less fortunate.


St. Bernard’s is proud to be able to honor these two graduates who exemplify the mission of St. Bernard’s and continue a time honored tradition of outstanding service and ministry.