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October 13, 2021, Morris Plains, New Jersey – For the sixth year, Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, has been named one of the Top 50 Power and Influence executives of nonprofit organizations by The NonProfit Times (NPT). The 50 were chosen from among 300 top executives and were recognized as initiators, innovators, and leaders who worked as “day-in, day-out executives,” according to The NonProfit Times.
The 50 honorees were feted recently at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., at the Annual NPT Power and Influence Gala.
Sister Donna, the first woman to serve as President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), was recognized for her commitment to immigrants. She is “one of the few nonprofit CEOs who went to the border on more than a photo-op tour,” according to Paul Cholery, Vice President and Editorial Director of NPT. “She and her network are showing how to care for detained immigrants.”
Immigration Advocacy and Refugee Services is one of the top priorities of CCUSA. Catholic Charities agencies around the country provide critical assistance to immigrants and refugees, as well as citizenship education and other services.
In April, Sister Donna traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border at El Centro, California, to get a sense of the situation at the border and to give her support to Catholic Charities workers struggling to meet the needs of the immigrants. Local Catholic Charities agencies set up shelters with food and clean clothes for immigrants coming out of detention and helped them get transportation to their friends or relatives in the United States.
“There’s no way you can look at that degree of human suffering and not be affected by it,” Sister Donna said. “My hat is off to the people in Catholic Charities who are doing this all the time, every day. Each one of them is a walking saint. They reach out in compassion and respect.”
Feature photo: Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, left, takes time to chat with William and his daughter, Julia, who came to the United States from Brazil during her recent visit to Catholic Charities shelters at the U.S.-Mexico border.
July 15, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters in ministry throughout the United States helped identify people affected by COVID-19 who could benefit from $1,000 grants issued by Catholic Extension.
Gary, the head of a household that included two other elderly adults on fixed incomes, received help in paying the three-month balance on his electric bill. Children participating in the Rosa Parks Children’s Program at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit received their own set of garden tools to help them raise and harvest vegetables to take home to their families. They also received school supplies.
Val, a single mom in Chicago who contracted the COVID-19 virus and who struggled with bills even after returning to work, received help paying her electric bill and hospital bill, and received gift cards to pay for groceries and gasoline. Two women served by the St. Kateri Center in Chicago received help in paying their bills: Paula, an iron worker in Chicago and the single mother of four children, worked sporadically and was disqualified from unemployment benefits. Tina, who cares for two grandchildren, was laid off from her work of cleaning the rooms at Palmer House in Chicago.
These individuals and their families were the beneficiaries of special grants: the Sisters on the Front Lines Grants from Catholic Extension and, for the individuals in Chicago, grants from Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), which focused its Sisters on the Front Lines grants to families in Chicago. Catholic Extension, a member organization of FADICA, gives grants to underserved, “mission” Catholic communities in the United States to help them build up the Catholic presence.
The grants went to Adrian Dominican Sisters who minister to people on the margins and who knew individuals and families who had special financial needs as a direct result of the pandemic.
Sister Jane Zimmerman, a spiritual director at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services in Chicago, said it was a privilege to work with Val to receive the grant. “Val was overjoyed and so grateful to have received this unexpected assistance,” Sister Jane said. “As for me, the experience gave me the opportunity to reflect on our Adrian Dominican commitment to ‘walk in solidarity with people who are poor.’”
Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, who worked with both Tina and Paula at the Kateri Center, said she was also grateful for the assistance from FADICA. She has been involved in the Kateri Center, a center for Native Americans in Chicago, since 2015, after ministering for 21 years in Oklahoma as part of a Dominican collaborative ministry with the Cheyenne and Arapaho.
Sister Maureen McGrath, OP, Director of the Catholic Community Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, described Gary as the “kindest, most grateful man.” Thanks to the Sisters on the Front Lines grant, she said, “we were able to assist Gary with an electric bill which required more assistance than we could have pledged … When I told him about the Catholic Extension gift, he almost cried, he was so very grateful for the relief.”
Sister Nancyann Turner, OP, recent Program Director for the Rosa Parks Children’s Program, said the grant money was used for the Children’s Peace Garden Program. “With monies from the grant, sessions were held more often but smaller so that children could keep a social distance from each other.”
These grants – and several more – were shepherded by Sister Nancy Murray, OP. While she was sidelined during the pandemic from her formal ministry – portraying St. Catherine of Siena at parishes, schools and other organizations throughout the world. She coordinated the $1,000 grants to families served by organizations in which Adrian Dominican Sisters were involved.
Catholic Extension announced the campaign, Sisters on the Front Lines, in June 2020 as a way to serve people whose lives have been affected by COVID-19. The plan was to give grants of $1,000 to 1,000 Sisters, knowing that they would know which families needed help because of the pandemic.
Sister Nancy originally reached out to Adrian Dominican Sisters who worked with organizations that served people facing poverty or homelessness. Other Sisters who received the grants for individuals or families were Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, Associate Director of Gianna House, Detroit, which offers resources to pregnant teenagers and to all new mothers in need; Sister Carol Weber, OP, Co-founder and Co-director of St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, Flint, Michigan, which offers a variety of services to help people in the Flint community to become self-sustaining; and Sister Patricia Leonard, OP, Associate Director of St. Ann Place, which provides services to homeless women and men in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Sister Nancy also received a grant for an Adrian area migrant farm worker family that is suffering economically because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other Sisters receiving the grant through FADICA were Sister Joan Mary, OP, who, as a volunteer at Aquinas Literacy Center in Chicago, tutored a woman who became pregnant and went to Syria to be with her mother. The grant enabled the literacy center to purchase laptops for adult learners so that they could continue to be tutored remotely.
Sister Eunice Drazba, OP, procured a grant for an employee who had been laid off from St. Leonard’s Ministries, which helps men and women leaving the prison system to adapt successfully in the community. Sister Dorothy Dempsey, OP, received a grant for a family with a special needs child.
Feature photo: Paula, with one of her daughters, received a check from FADICA to help her catch up on her bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was identified by Sister Jo Ann Fleischaker, OP, as heading a family that needed a grant.