Home / Impact / San Damiano Servant Leadership Award

San Damiano Servant Leadership Award

San Damiano Header Image

What is the San Damiano Servant Leadership Award?

When St. Francis prayed in the small Portiuncula chapel before the San Damiano Cross, he heard our Lord tell him, “Rebuild my Church.” This call inspired St. Francis not only to rebuild the debilitated Portiuncula chapel, but also to establish a community of brothers and to care for all of God’s creation as a channel of his peace. FMS’ San Damiano award recognizes young women and men who, like St. Francis, heed Christ’s call to rebuild his church. We encourage servant-leaders with empathetic and service-oriented hearts to apply for this award.

Franciscan Mission Service asks that applicants meet the following criteria to be considered for the San Damiano Award:

  • Be an undergraduate college student with a junior or senior class-standing
  • Be an active and practicing member of the Catholic Church
  • Show commitment to values of Catholic Social Teaching
  • Show commitment to personal and communal faith life
  • Demonstrate leadership that engages others in service
  • Demonstrate service to marginalized or impoverished populations

2024 Winner

Jessika Crockett-Murphy

“The mission of ministry is to heal, to help, and to bring individuals to God…When you see all people as being made in the image and likeness of God, the desire to help them to the best of your ability only grows stronger.” These words written by 2024 San Damiano Award winner Jessika Crockett-Murphy encapsulate our call as Christians to work for a more just and loving world. Jessika is a senior studying political science and religious studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, whose joy, generosity, and leadership stand out right away to those who know her. 

During her time at Stonehill, Jessika has been involved in the HOPE Service Immersion Program, working in solidarity with economically marginalized communities and helping other students approach service with enthusiasm. She has also been a leader in LIGHT, a local service program, organizing students and maintaining relationships with other service organizations, all while serving in student government, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and working on a project to build an interfaith labyrinth for the broader community. 

Jessika’s willingness to share her faith journey and her gift of building community has created an environment where everyone can feel welcome, wanted, and open to responding to God’s invitation of love.

Past Recipients

2021: Amarilis Rodriguez

“I find my identity when I am doing God’s work and promoting human dignity by working with others for the common good and respect of our neighbor,” says Amarilis Rodriguez, a junior biology major and chemistry minor at Seton Hall University. Amarilis shares her deep faith through her kindness, generosity, and joy in her local community, on her college campus, and abroad.

On her first mission trip to Petit Goave, Haiti at the age of sixteen, Amarilis recognized the residents of a shelter and hospital as sons and daughters of God as she grew in love of neighbor. From this experience, she felt called to serve by reducing hunger and food insecurity in her hometown of Perth Amboy, NJ. In 2017, Amarilis founded “Baskets for the Needy,” a non-profit organization that makes a difference by donating baskets of food to families experiencing food insecurity, poverty, illness, and domestic violence.

Amarilis is also involved in campus ministry and FOCUS as a Bible Study leader, disciple, sacristan, e-board member, and bilingual Rosary leader. She joyfully invites her friends and peers to serve with her, and she inspires them to grow in faith with her.

2020: Amanda Martin

For many students, college is a time to turn inward, focusing on one’s personal development and studies. Yet Amanda Martin’s study of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America has drawn her out of herself and into her community. “I fell in love with the richness and depth of Catholic doctrine. But over time, I realized that there was no point to my studies if I was not also facing outward and living out the example of Christ.”

For Amanda, living the example of Christ means engaging in the Works of Mercy, outlined in Matthew 25, and building relationships with those on the margins. Feeding the hungry has become particularly central to Amanda’s college experience through her continuous engagement in Catholic University’s homeless food runs and creation of a summer homeless outreach program, recognizing that this ministry is needed even when students are on breaks. Her faith and commitment to service connected in a powerful way when she, along with some of her friends experiencing homelessness, organized a prayer service for Ms. Bobbie, who had been living on the streets of D.C. for nine years. Their candlelit vigil at the spot where she passed gathered thirty of Ms. Bobbie’s friends and allowed them to grieve together, a space not often held for individuals living in poverty. “It was the most beautiful intersection of standing in solidarity with the poor, as I am called to do through Catholic Social Teaching, and my faith life, by bringing others to pray together in hope that Ms. Bobbie finally has peace and warmth in Heaven.”

Amanda has also served as a student minister, provided tutoring for low-income students, and served on a justice immersion trip to Punta Gorda, Belize. As this year’s student leader of the Belize immersion, she hopes to inspire other students to engage with service and justice in a deep way during their years in college. She plans to use the award both to fund the trip and as a direct gift to the school where they will serve, St. Peter Claver Catholic Elementary School.

2019: Megan Bohatch

"Our Lord and our God does not simply suggest that we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and so on. He commands it. How in my prayer and faith could I profess belief in Jesus, without also being committed to the ‘least of these’ just as He was?"  With these words, Franciscan Mission Service's 2019 San Damiano Award winner, Megan Bohatch, provides a glimpse into her heart for service and why volunteering with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been such an important part of her time at Duquesne University.

For Megan, service and prayer are intimately connected.  As she puts it, "you can’t run a marathon if you don’t eat breakfast."  Likewise, Megan states that it is prayer that allows her to serve well.  Nurtured by Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching, Megan has embraced a call to "dwell among [God's] people and walk alongside of them." At the same time, she has sought new ways of practicing servant leadership within the context of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  As a sophomore, Megan served as the Secretary for the campus branch of the Society.  Later, as a junior, she became the Public Relations Chair, and now, as a senior, Megan serves as President.

Looking toward the future and desiring the club to be well-equipped to continue its ministries, Megan has committed to giving her award scholarship to the Society.  Says Megan, "The group is completely at the mercy of what comes in through the generosity of others. As the current president, I would love nothing more than to be able to set the group up financially for the upcoming academic year. "

2018: Sarah Bertrand

A phrase that has been constantly used in connection with Sarah Bertrand, junior at Xavier University of Louisiana, is that she is “striving to make this world a more just and humane society.” This quote from the mission statement of Xavier, and attributed to St. Katharine Drexel, founder of the university, encapsulates Sarah’s passion for and experience of servant leadership. Sarah, when reflecting on social justice and her faith said:

“The phrase ‘Catholic bubble’ has always bothered me because the very word ‘Catholic’ means universal. Catholicism is not meant to create an exclusive group, but rather an inclusive community. Reflecting upon servant leadership and the themes of Catholic Social teaching, I realized that these themes are the tools we must use to break the ‘Catholic bubble.’

Taking these themes are her tools, Sarah has participated in service projects and social justice initiatives in her local community in Louisiana as well as in her college community. From working as a volunteer at the University Hospital ER, to community beautification projects in Labadieville, LA, to leading an event called “Pope-yes” that created a space for students to discuss migration and watch the Pope’s launch of the Caritas “Share the Journey” Campaign, Sarah has done it all.

But that’s not all, Sarah has also been an active member of Catholic Relief Services on campus. Through CRS she has organized fair trade tables at Xavier’s University Center and organized immigration talks on campus. Most recently, Sarah has decided to take her passion for service to the global level, organizing a partnership with Honduras Outreach Incorporated. This partnership has culminated in the first ever mission trip at Xavier, that will have 20 students going to Honduras in May of 2018.

2017: Mary Grace Donohoe

“Christ calls us in the Beatitudes to be peacemakers—not just to exist in peaceful societies—[and that] is transformative,” says Mary Grace. About to complete a degree in International Relations and Religious Studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, Mary Grace is on fire about her faith, service, and being a peacemaker in her daily life.

This year’s awardee served on a water-production project with HOPE, Stonehill’s service immersion program in Chacraseca, Nicaragua, where she created a structure that was locally-staffed to empower the community and ensure the project’s sustainability. Working and living alongside migrant farm workers in Apopka, Florida, Mary Grace was inspired by their generosity and courage, saying, “There is a tremendous amount of strength that you don’t really see in many communities when your your life isn’t on the line for your children, your job, or for your family.” Most recently, Mary Grace worked as an administrative assistant at Bridge Women’s Support Center in Queens, New York, where she connected low-income families with food and shelter resources. Read more about our most recent awardee.

2016: Brandon Turner

headshot“My prayer and faith life intersect with my commitment to Catholic Social Teaching because it answers the ‘why.’ Why must we respect the dignity of the human person? Why must we step up to protect the mistreatment of workers? Faith has taught me that in doing so, we imitate and carry on the mission of Christ,” shared Brandon, a senior accounting major at St. John’s University in New York.In 2015, he was chosen as the St. John’s University representative at the Catholic Social Ministries gathering. Brandon is also a musician, and currently coordinates music at multiple churches in his area. For Brandon, this giving attitude and willingness to help wherever he’s needed is part of his nature. “Taking full advantage of the metropolitan and global opportunities St. John’s offers, Brandon has traveled the globe to learn, to serve, and to be an advocate,” said one of Brandon’s mentors. While at St. John’s, Brandon has participated in many service trips, including one to Lourdes, France, as well as a trip to an indigenous Ngobe community.

2015: Emma Laut

Emma Laut“I know that there will always be evil in this world, and through my experiences in service and social change I will never un-see it,” says this senior biology major from Marian University in Indianapolis. “However I am also confident that I am empowered by God’s love and my faith fuels my ability to bring change.” She has worked for this change in her local community as a food fellow at Growing Places Indy, a research intern at Institute for Green and Sustainable Science, as a social justice retreat leader for campus ministry, and active member of the Catholic Worker community. She has recorded over 400 community service hours during her time at Marian.

In addition to leading others alternative break trips to the Navajo community in New Mexico, she has participated in several herself, in addition to a mission trip to Guatemala. One of her mentors describes her as an “inviter” and a “builder” who goes beyond her comfort zone, meets people where they are, and encourages a culture of service. One of her peers says that “Through her simplicity and truly genuine nature, Emma brings joy to all those who surround her.” Read more about Emma