ALBANY, N.Y. — Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh was surprised at her home at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse in Albany March 12 when visitors presented her with the Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award.Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh poses for a photo March 12 with Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications, in the community room at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse in Albany, N.Y. Sr. Mary Ann received Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award. (CNS photo/Helen Osman)

“Her life of service to the Catholic press, the USCCB and the church is outstanding and a model for all,” said Rob DeFrancesco, president of the CPA and associate publisher of the Catholic Sun in the Diocese of Phoenix, in explaining the decision to bestow the award.

Sr. Mary Ann, the U.S. church correspondent for America magazine, stepped down last summer as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“What a great honor,” Sr. Mary Ann said in a note to Catholic News Service. “Once I moved from journalism to media relations, I thought such an honor was out of reach. I love the Catholic Press Association and the writing world. I am a writer at heart.”

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The St. Francis de Sales Award is the highest award the CPA presents to an individual for “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism” and is normally presented during the annual Catholic Media Conference. The award was brought to her because of her declining health.

Sr. Mary Ann has been battling what she called an aggressive form of metastatic cancer.