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Sister Donna Markham, Named Top Executive, Addresses UN on Plight of Refugees and Migrants

September 27, 2016, Washington, DC – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, was active in the public sphere in mid-September. She was honored on September 15 as one of the Non Profit Times’ (NPT) 2016 Power and Influence Top 50 non-profit executives and, the next week, spoke as part of a panel  on migrants and refugees at a side event at the United Nations. 

“Any recognition I receive is rightfully a tribute to the Adrian Dominican Congregation that has formed me, loved me and supported me throughout my religious life,” Sister Donna said in response to these events. 

The NPT Top 50 Gala, held at the National Press Club, gave the honorees and their guests the opportunity to meet and interact with one another. They also listened to a keynote address by David Wilkinson, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. Mr. Wilkinson spoke about the involvement of the White House with non-profit organizations. Honorees were then called forward one at a time to receive their special award from NPT.

In naming Sister Donna to the list of top 50 nonprofit executives – from a field of roughly 300 executives – the NPT noted her work to “break the image of Catholic Charities as solely a major emergency relief organization.” Her philosophy of “participative government” is bringing “unlikely partners to the table and changing how this $4.5 billion behemoth operates and collaborates.”

Sister Donna, former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, is the first woman to head Catholic Charities USA, a national network of 164 agencies who serve people in need. Services include disaster relief, food banks and pantries, emergency shelter and a variety of housing options, educational and training opportunities for adults and children, and advocacy on behalf of those who are in need.

Since taking on the presidency of CCUSA in June 2015, Sister Donna has worked with the White House and both houses of Congress, imparting Catholic social values; represented Catholic Charities during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States in October 2015; and helped to coordinate organization’s vision for 2017-2022. 

“The ministry of Catholic Charities has been engaged in a process of identifying our strategic priorities for the next five years and articulating our vision for the future,” she wrote in a preface to CCUSA’s 2017-2022 vision.   

On September 19, Sister Donna described one of CCUSA’s 2017-2022 priorities – immigration and refugee services – while she spoke on a panel at a side event during the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants. Sister Donna spoke of the growing numbers of migrants and refugees who take great personal risks to flee the dangers and hardship they face in their homelands and to find security and freedom in other countries. 

Through the years, Catholic Charities agencies have settled refugees in the United States; provided legal services to migrants seeking immigration status; and helped refugees and migrants to find “housing, school, employment and social support in their new communities,” Sister Donna said. She noted that Catholic Charities is part of the global Caritas Internationalis movement, which works “around the world to assist refugees and migrants.”  

Read Sister Donna’s entire address here.   

Watch the video of the panel discussion.

Sister Donna Markham Attends Canonization of Mother Teresa

September 9, 2016, Rome – Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), attended the September 4, 2016, canonization of Mother Teresa, as an official representative of the President Barack Obama.

“I’m very humbled to be asked by the President to represent him and the U.S. on this occasion,” Sister Donna said. “Mother Teresa did so much to call attention to the plight of the poorest of the poor, and now it is our responsibility to continue that ministry as we work to change the systems that have resulted in this suffering of the most vulnerable.”

Others in the U.S. presidential delegation were Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS); Kenneth Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican; Hon. Suzanne George, Special Assistant to the President for National Security; and Lisa Monaco, Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security. The group traveled from Andrews  Air Force Base on a military jet and were met by police escort at Ciampino Airport in Rome. 


The papal procession at the Canonization Liturgy of Mother Teresa.

Representatives of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa,
take part in her canonization.


The Mass was celebrated by Pope Francis at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square, where Sister Donna said the Presidential Delegation was seated in the diplomat section, on the level with the altar and across from cardinals and bishops. 

“The liturgy was moving and quite beautiful, including Taize and Gregorian chant, all with the antiphonal singing between the choir and the people,” she said. The group was seated in the hot sun on a 95-degree day for the 90-minute canonization liturgy, she added.

Sister Donna was impressed by the energy of Pope Francis, who took time after the Canonization Liturgy to greet some of the bishops and then rode through the crowd of 120,000 people. “After that, he threw a pizza party for the homeless of Rome,” she noted.

Born in 1910 in what is now Skopje, Macedonia, Mother Teresa joined the Sisters of Loreto and, while teaching and later serving as principal in Calcutta, India, she felt the call to serve the sick, destitute, and dying of Calcutta. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in the Archdiocese of Calcutta and, until her death on September 5, 1997, directed her order and continued her service to those most in need.

Through the canonization process, the Catholic Church declares that Mother Teresa has lived a life of heroic virtue and is worthy of imitation and veneration by members of the universal Church.


Feature photo: Carolyn Woo (left), President of Catholic Relief Services, and Sister Donna Markham, OP, wait to board a military jet for Rome to attend the Canonization of Mother Teresa.





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