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Sister Donna Markham Receives Honorary Doctorate from Dominican University

June 13, 2016, River Forest, Illinois – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, first woman President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, received an honorary doctorate from Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, during the University’s Spring Commencement exercises. Dominican University was founded in 1901 by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.

Sister Donna Markham, left, with Dominican University President Donna M. Carroll. Photo Courtesy of Dominican University 

A certified clinical psychologist, Sister Donna has held leadership positions in mental health agencies: the Behavioral Health Institute for Mercy Health, serving Ohio and Kentucky, and Southdown Institute, based in Ontario, Canada, and offering residential treatment for clergy and religious.

Sister Donna, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation from 2004 to 2010, received this special recognition “for her strong leadership and efforts to bring dignity, hope, and compassion to the most marginalized members of society.”

Sister Donna, for her part, noted her own sense of humility in receiving the award, especially at the time when the Church’s Year of Mercy coincides with the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers, Dominicans. She presented the 2016 graduates with eight words to accompany them into their future.

  • Seek truth: Sister Donna held up the “long line of scholars” in the Dominican tradition who have sought truth to “address the social and moral dilemmas” of their times: from St. Dominic to other Dominican saints; Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Catherine of Siena. “Regardless of your particular field of expertise, you embody the depth of a Dominican education as you search to find what is true and good and right in bringing about a more compassionate society.”

  • Make peace: Noting the strong pull of divisiveness and enmity in today’s culture, Sister Donna encouraged the graduates to seek reconciliation among all parties and to be “fearless in entering into the space of making peace.” She called on the graduates to make use of the Dominican tradition of disputatio – “engaging educated dialog in the service of establishing relationships, building understanding, and reconciling differences.”

  • Extend mercy: Sister Donna noted that, in this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis calls for a culture of care and compassion. “Many of you may not be directly engaged with the poorest of the poor, but everyone of us stands in need of compassion,” she said. “How we treat one another, how we treat our families and our coworkers and colleagues, how we respond to the homeless fellow living under the Wabash Street bridge – is the measure of our mercy.”

  • Reverence life: Sister Donna challenged the Class of 2016, “inheritors of Dominican education,” to make use of their education, knowledge, writing, and scholarship to address the cries of the poor and to recognize the connection among all beings. “Do not be deaf to the cry of the earth and the cries of the poor. …Stay passionate in advocating on behalf of life in all of its forms.” 

Sister Jamie Phelps Recognized for her Dedicated Church Ministry

March 10, 2016, Chicago, Illinois – In the Spring months of 2016, Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, PhD, has been and will be recognized for her 50 years of dedicated service to the Church in various ways – from her own study and teaching of theology and preaching to her service through writing and lecturing, psychiatric social work, community organizing, spiritual direction, and pastoral ministry.

Sister Jamie received the How Beautiful Are Their Feet Award during a special dinner at the 2016 Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) for social justice, held February 15-18 in Houston, Texas. Founded in 2003, SDPC is a cross section of African American faith leaders and their congregations. The organization’s mission is to “nurture, sustain, and mobilize the African American faith community in collaboration with civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to address critical needs of human and social justice within local, national, and global communities.”  

Sister Jamie will also receive an honorary doctorate – her first – from Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican graduate school located in St. Louis, Missouri, during its May 6 commencement exercises. In a letter to Sister Jamie, Rev. Seán C. Martin, President, noted that the Board of Trustees had voted unanimously to award her “the Doctorate of Human Letters, honoris causa, in recognition of your many accomplishments as a theologian and as a member of the Dominican family.” 

Sister Jamie noted that these recent awards “are part of the hundredfold God promises for those who attempt to follow in the Way of Jesus. While one does not do ministry to garner recognition or awards, it is nice when your ministry is affirmed by others. To God be the glory!”

An Adrian Dominican Sister since 1959, Sister Jamie is currently a freelance theologian and lecturer, facilitating Bible study at St. Ambrose and St. Thomas the Apostle Parishes in Chicago. She served for eight years as the Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Katherine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology at Xavier University in New Orleans. Before that, she had taught theology in the Chicago-based Catholic Theological Union (CTU) from 1986 to 1998 and Loyola University, 1998 to 2003. Sister Jamie has also served as a visiting professor of theology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, from January to May, 2003, and twice at the University of Notre Dame: in 2005-2006 and 2012-2013. 

Sister Jamie has also been engaged in other ministries: theology instructor in a catechetical training program for African American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago; a psychiatric social worker and community organizer at Chicago Child Care Society; a theology teacher at Aquinas High School in Chicago; and a pastoral associate at three Catholic parishes in Chicago: St. Columbanus, Holy Cross, and St. Laurence.

Through the years, Sister Jamie has also written and lectured extensively on a variety of topics, such as African American Catholics, the mission of the Church, religion and human rights, evangelization, religious life, and the Christology.

Sister Jamie hold’s a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, Michigan; a master’s in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago; a master’s in theology from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota; and a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.


 

 

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