Location: Denver, Colorado

EducationUniversity of Florida; The Augustine Institute

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Family, Youth, and Community Science; (working towards) Masters in Leadership for the New Evangelization 

Former Job Title: Respect Life Coordinator

Former Organization: Diocese of St. Augustine

Mary Catherine Damon, GIVEN ’16

When praying about the GIVEN action plan, three things were deeply on my heart: the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the recent opening of the cause of canonization of the Martyrs of La Florida, and the great need to use beauty and the arts to draw the hearts of the created to the Creator.” – Mary Catherine Damon

Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!

Hi there! I’m Mary Catherine and I have a great love for theology, building a culture of life, swing dancing, sewing quilts, allergen-friendly baking, and everything Polish. I love hosting parties and often agree with Jane Austen’s Mr. Weston when he said, “one cannot have too large a party.” I am currently working on my Masters in Leadership for the New Evangelization in Denver, Colorado. Prior to moving to Denver, I served the Northeast Florida community as the diocesan Respect Life Coordinator for five years. While in the Diocese of St. Augustine, I fell in love with Our Lady of La Leche and the Martyrs of La Florida, about whom I am currently writing my master’s thesis.

Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?

While I was studying at the University of Florida, I was deeply moved to help build a culture of life and a civilization of love on a college campus that very much embraced the culture of death. Over time, it became clear to me that a root cause of this culture of death is the loss of a sense of our own dignity and identity as beloved children of God. This led me to work towards restoring a culture of life one heart at a time.

“Over time, it became clear to me that a root cause of this culture of death is the loss of a sense of our own dignity and identity as beloved children of God. This led me to work towards restoring a culture of life one heart at a time.”

After serving the Diocese of St. Augustine as the Respect Life Coordinator for 5 years, the Lord led me back to school. I had sworn off graduate school, but when the Lord made it clear that this was the next door to walk through, I was so ready, willing, and ecstatic! The chance to take two years to immerse myself in the study of theology at the Augustine Institute has been a time of respite and growth, and has brought me to a deeper understanding of the revelation of God’s inexhaustible love for each and every one us.

What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?

The Lord has generously given me the gifts of hospitality, administration, leadership, and interpersonal communication. I am always looking for opportunities to bring people together because we are all made for communion. I also love giving presentations about the dignity of the human person and the feminine genius. Most recently, I have become passionate about sharing the stories of the initial evangelization of America through La Florida and the over 25,000 native Americans and Spanish missionaries who were martyred for the faith between 1549-1761 throughout La Florida.

“The Lord has generously given me the gifts of hospitality, administration, leadership, and interpersonal communication. I am always looking for opportunities to bring people together because we are all made for communion.”

What women inspire you, and why?

The Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was so in union with the Father, was able to give her fiat without hesitation because she trusted so immensely in whatever His will was, knowing it would be more beautiful than anything she could imagine. I am especially moved by how she embraced every obstacle, hardship, and invitation to suffering. She wholeheartedly embraced these things, knowing God was permitting them for a reason and that His glory would be made manifest through it.

“The Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was so in union with the Father, was able to give her fiat without hesitation because she trusted so immensely in whatever His will was, knowing it would be more beautiful than anything she could imagine.”

Mariana Viuda is a Timucuan Native American who was martyred for the faith in La Florida with her son and about 35 others. She refused to spit on the cross “because such a denial was tantamount to destroying her heart, because for her this Cross and her heart were the same.”

What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?

We are all called to a spousal relationship with the Lord. This is the principle vocation of every baptized Christian – to be in communion with our Creator – because the relationship between God and the soul is fundamentally matrimonial. When I first heard this, it resonated deeply in my heart because for so long I desired to be like Our Lady, both espoused to God and the mother of children here on earth, but I thought it was not possible. Upon hearing this, it became clear that being espoused to Christ is for everyone, not just women religious. The reconciliation of this reality completely changed the way I approached vocational discernment.

We are all called to a spousal relationship with the Lord. This is the principle vocation of every baptized Christian – to be in communion with our Creator.”

What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.

When praying about the GIVEN action plan, three things were deeply on my heart: the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the recent opening of the cause of canonization of the Martyrs of La Florida, and the great need to use beauty and the arts to draw the hearts of the created to the Creator.

My amazing team of friends and I worked together to put on a music and arts festival in the spirit of the Florida Martyrs to offer relief to Christians in the Middle East called the ‘No Greater Love Festival.'”

My amazing team of friends and I worked together to put on a music and arts festival in the spirit of the Florida Martyrs to offer relief to Christians in the Middle East called the “No Greater Love Festival.” It took place at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, home to the first Mass in the first continuous settlement of the United States, the first Marian shrine of the United States, and the martyrdom site of some of the Florida Martyrs. Over 500 attendees came together for a day that included a living history with reenactors of the lives of the Florida Martyrs, a documentary screening of “Our Last Stand,” food trucks, Eucharistic Adoration, reconciliation, Mass with Bishop Estévez, outdoor evening conferences by Dr. Mary Soha, Fr. Blake Britton, Andrew Walther, and Kathryn Jean Lopez, with performances by Colleen Nixon and Audrey Assad. Together we donated $31,704.25 to the Knights of Columbus’ Christians at Risk initiative. Additionally, a Native American community was so impacted by their experience that 30 of their people returned to the Catholic faith of their martyred ancestors.

“Together we donated $31,704.25 to the Knights of Columbus’ Christians at Risk initiative. Additionally, a Native American community was so impacted by their experience that 30 of their people returned to the Catholic faith of their martyred ancestors.”