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November 17, 2021, Washington, D.C. – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) was an eyewitness to history November 15, 2021, as she watched President Joe Biden sign the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“This is historic,” Sister Donna said in an interview. “It’s a once-in-a-generation event, the largest infrastructure bill that has ever been undertaken in the United States … and the single largest investment since the construction of the interstate highway. It was really being part of history.” 

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, left, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, and Mary Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, pose on the White House Lawn.

Sister Donna said she was invited to the signing because of her leadership of an organization that serves 15 million vulnerable people throughout the United States every year. “We are the largest provider of services outside of the federal government,” she said. She was attending the event with members of both houses of Congress, as well as mayors, governors, representatives of labor unions, and representatives of organizations that serve the working class and the working poor.

Still, she was surprised and thrilled at the invitation – which came at 5 p.m. on the Friday before the Monday signing. “The White House never gives you a lot of notice.” Sister Donna arrived early for the event, knowing she would have to clear security checkpoints. Speakers included Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and President Biden.

Along with the historic nature of the event, Sister Donna is especially thrilled at the impact of the bill on the people served by CCUSA. “It’ll be years in its unfolding, but it will do wonderful things,” she said. The bill “makes a huge investment in clean energy,” moving the country away from fossil fuels.

All of these improvements will provide good-paying jobs – key for the people served by CCUSA, Sister Donna said. “There will be so many opportunities for people to get fine jobs,” she said, noting that the local Catholic Charities agencies will work with the people they serve to help them get some of those jobs.   

People served by CCUSA will also benefit from the clean-up of drinking water throughout the country as lead pipes throughout the nation are replaced. “Whether in the rural area, the city, or the tribal nations, those who are disadvantaged are going to really benefit from that part of this investment,” Sister Donna said. She also sees the advantages of greater access to high-speed internet – so that mothers don’t have to take children to use the Internet at places like McDonald’s to complete their homework. 

“I hope it’s implemented in a timely fashion and gets the country moving in the right direction,” she said, adding that she finds great hope from the fact that the bill found bipartisan support.


Feature photo: Vice President Kamala Harris addresses a crowd of about 800 people attending the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Photo by Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD

November 15, 2021, San Diego, California – “We are committed to putting the Gospel into action in this sacred work we undertake these days.”

That was the message of Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) in her recent Presidential Address during the 2021 CCUSA Annual Gathering in San Diego, California. In attendance were CCUSA professionals, volunteers, and partners who serve in agencies throughout the United States 

In her address, “What Time Is It?” Sister Donna noted the suffering that people in the United States have undergone in the past year and a half from the pandemic, racial violence, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, natural disasters, and the trauma of migrants and refugees who come to the United States seeking safety. After these difficult months, “I believe this is a time for healing,” she said. “This is a time for hope, a time to be reinvigorated.”

Sister Donna enumerated the various ways that CCUSA staff and volunteers reached out to suffering people in the United States in the past months: through food distribution; distribution of supplies such as masks, face shields, and hand sanitizers to protect people from the virus; help for people facing eviction, as well as emergency housing, senior housing, and units of supportive, affordable housing; support to migrants and refugees coming from the southern border and, most recently, from Afghanistan and Haiti; mental health and wellness services; and workforce development and job training.

Finally, Sister Donna spoke of the mandate of Pope Francis to bring hope to all who are suffering and in need. “Regardless of race, creed, nationality, social status, orientation, or age, we extend our care so people may reclaim hope and live a full life,” she said. “Catholic Charities is a profound expression of the healing ministry of the Church.”

Watch Sister Donna’s entire Presidential Address.



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