Alexandria, Va. – After eight years of leading Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Sister Donna Markham OP, Ph.D., will retire as its President and CEO in summer 2023.
Sister Donna is the first woman to lead the U.S. domestic humanitarian work of the Catholic Church and is the 10th president in CCUSA’s 112-year history. Her retirement culminates a more than 40-year career spent leading efforts to reduce poverty and providing care for people at-risk.
“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude to Sister Donna Markham for her visionary and effective leadership of CCUSA over the past eight years,” said Neal Black, chairperson of the CCUSA Board of Directors. “The Catholic Charities network is a beacon of hope for millions of vulnerable people across the U.S., and Sister Donna has admirably led CCUSA during a time when so many need so much more. Through the organization’s increased innovation, collaboration, advancement and advocacy efforts, Sister Donna leaves an indelible mark on the social services work of the Catholic Church.”
“As our CEO, Sister Donna has generously shared her spirit of wisdom, understanding, judgment, courage and knowledge with the national ministry of Catholic Charities,” said Marguerite Harmon, CEO of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. “Her greatest gift to this work has been her genuine love of the people we serve and her example of walking side by side with them and those who support them along their journeys. We are all grateful for her leadership, which planted the seeds of promise that will continue to nourish this ministry into the future.”
As a national membership organization, CCUSA represents the interests of Catholic Charities’ 167 member agencies and the more than 3,400 locations that serve people in need in our country. Sister Donna led a process in 2017 to identify and strategically align CCUSA’s priorities and advocacy efforts around affordable housing, integrated health, food and nutrition, immigration and refugee services, disaster services and workforce development.
The Catholic Charities network across the U.S. and its territories has experienced tremendous growth during Sister Donna’s tenure and is currently serving more than 15 million vulnerable people annually, regardless of their religious affiliation. CCUSA has awarded more than $150 million in emergency and disaster grants alone to its member agencies since she took the helm in June 2015.
Sister Donna led the organization’s response to the pandemic, answering the call for increased assistance to reduce evictions, food insecurity and unemployment. CCUSA provided much-needed emergency aid to its member agencies on the front lines, enabling them to continue serving their communities during a time of great uncertainty. This included supplying necessary personal protective equipment, in-kind donations and direct funding.
Sister Donna has led CCUSA through a period of innovation, from the introduction of the Healthy Housing Initiative — a pilot launched to couple comprehensive health care with affordable housing in order to reduce chronic homelessness — to the launch of a digital transformation — a network-wide intake and case management system to better integrate the services of member agencies. In 2019, Sister Donna announced the CCUSA Innovation Challenge to catalyze ideas that lead to systemic change in the way the Catholic Charities network addresses poverty. An additional challenge focused on workforce development innovation is underway this year.
In the midst of a heightened partisan atmosphere nationally, Sister Donna continues to lead an advocacy effort on behalf of CCUSA member agencies, stressing that the work of Catholic Charities is humanitarian in nature, not political. She has used the power of the $5 billion network to advocate for policies that uphold human dignity and promote integral human development. Sister Donna has called on policymakers to see the faces and humanity of those in need in their communities and to create policies that assist and support them.
In response to an increase in the number of lay professionals leading member agencies, Sister Donna introduced a number of Catholic faith formation programs to provide a solid grounding in Catholic social and moral teaching, recognizing the importance of weaving the mission of the church through the work of member agencies.
Sister Donna is an Adrian Dominican sister and board-certified clinical psychologist. She has spent her career seeking to transform the delivery of behavioral health care as former president of the Behavioral Health Institute at Mercy Health system, and as president of the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada. She served as Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation and served for eight years as a member of CCUSA’s Board of Directors, including two years as Board chairperson.
Sister Donna earned her doctorate from the University of Detroit and was named a Fellow in the American Association of Clinical Psychologists. She was awarded the prestigious Harold S. Bernard Training Award from the American Group Psychotherapy Association in 2014. For each of the past seven years, Sister Donna has been named by the NonProfit Times as one of the “Power & Influence Top 50 Leaders.” She is a member of Leadership 18, an alliance of CEOs responsible for leading some of the country’s largest and most well-respected charities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations. She also serves on its executive committee.
The CCUSA board will conduct a comprehensive national search for a successor in the coming months. Sister Donna will remain in her role as the board conducts the search, with plans to transition to a successor in summer 2023.