Order of Malta presents awards at annual Mass

How do we serve?

As Catholics, we all must ask ourselves that question. How do we use our God-given gifts in service to the Lord and one another?

Two members of the Order of Malta Boston Area were honored recently for the ways in which they have answered. Karen Deane and Damien DeVasto received, respectively, the Forgetful of Myself Award and the Bishop Fitzpatrick Award at the Boston Area's Annual Fall Mass and Dinner.

The event took place Oct. 24 at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and was hosted by Father Brian R. Kiely, rector of the seminary and a chaplain in the Order of Malta. He was joined by another Malta chaplain, Father Jack Ahern. The reception speaker was Ellen Shafer, GCMOb, a member of the Order and chair of Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation. She spoke of the hospital's commitment to the poor and sick and how the pandemic has increased the need.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley celebrated the Mass and focused his homily on our interdependence and connectedness to one another. At the conclusion of Mass, Boston Area co-chairs Nancy and Craig Gibson highlighted the award recipients' backgrounds and Cardinal O'Malley presented the awards.

The Forgetful of Myself Award is new this year. It takes its name from the Daily Prayer of the Order of Malta, which describes the four ways members can secure the strength to carry out God's work. In addition to learning from the Gospels to love one another, seeking God's glory, and striving for peace, the prayer exhorts each member to "be forgetful of myself."

Deane is the first recipient of this award and, according to co-chair Nancy Gibson, perfectly embodies the values the award celebrates.

"Karen has given so much to others through the years," Nancy Gibson said. "This new Forgetful of Myself Award provides a moment to shine the light on how one of our members lives her life truly forgetful of herself."

Deane first heard about the Order of Malta while working at a camp for kids with HIV. In 1997, the camp director asked her to fill in on the Order's Annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes. She has since made the trip more than 25 times and serves on the Lourdes Pilgrimage Medical team.

Whether at home or abroad, Deane has brought her desire to serve where it is most needed. Many years ago, she used her graduation money from nursing school to buy a plane ticket to India, where she volunteered at Mother Teresa's Kalighat Home for the Dying. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, she volunteered at the Por Cristo Nutrition and Health Center. Her nursing skills have helped children with disabilities in Bolivia and Peru and children suffering from malnutrition in Haiti.

Closer to home, Deane worked at Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang summer camp, both as a volunteer and on staff, providing nursing care for terminally ill children. During the pandemic, she traveled to Florida to help her sister, a nurse, distribute COVID vaccination shots to residents in low-income communities.

The Bishop Fitzpatrick Award is given to an Order of Malta member who embodies and exemplifies the care and calling of the Order's charism in his or her life and work. The charism exhorts each member to serve those in need, nurture his or her own spiritual well-being, and defend the faith.

DeVasto has responded to that calling in both his professional and volunteer capacities.

"Damien has brought extraordinary talents and energy into the life of the Church," co-chair Craig Gibson said. "He has used those talents to foster a deep sense of spirituality and community within and beyond the Order of Malta membership."

Beginning with his work for the Archdiocese of Boston as executive director of what is now known as the Catholic Appeal, DeVasto has since served with distinction on many committees and special projects. Today, he oversees the Cardinal's Leadership Circle, working closely with benefactors to the archdiocese and top advisors to Cardinal O'Malley.

He served two terms, from 2013 to 2018, as chair of the Order of Malta Boston Area. Under his leadership, the area flourished in size and scope. Early in his tenure, he oversaw the merger of the Rhode Island Area with Boston. He played a central role in launching a comprehensive formation program for new members and in significantly increasing membership.

DeVasto developed new channels of communication and outreach. He oversaw an increase in the participation in hands-on ministries, such as Cor Unum Meal Center, Little Sisters of the Poor, Regina Cleri, Malta Walks, Prison Ministry, Cathedral Cares Nursing Outreach, and Cancer Cares. He also oversaw the Grants Committee as it distributed funds to a variety of educational and social service organizations. For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, he inspired and oversaw a range of special activities, including the Mass of Healing at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

"For members and friends who attended the Annual Mass and Dinner, we were blessed to be part of such an uplifting event," Craig Gibson said. "The beautiful words of Cardinal O'Malley's homily -- 'Love generates concentric rings like a pebble cast in a pond' -- were exemplified in the extraordinary ways Karen has made lives better, in Damien's use of his considerable skills to nurture our spiritual community, and in the dedicated commitment of Ellen and her co-workers at Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation to helping the sick and the poor. May we all be inspired by their example as we answer for ourselves the question, how do we serve?"