Leadership Conference of Women Religious Celebrates Sister Donna Markham

August 14, 2023
A photo from a Catholic Charities USA annual Gathering. Then-president and CEO Sr. Donna Markham is on the stage addressing the crowd. There are two woman sitting behind her and plants on the stage. The audience is seated at round tables before her.

Alexandria, Va. – The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) on Friday, August 11 honored Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), with its 2023 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award. LCWR, the association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States, bestows this award on someone who has significantly contributed to the ministry of leadership and who reflects the LCWR mission.

At the conclusion of its annual assembly in Dallas, LCWR recognized Sister Donna for her “trailblazing and accompaniment” during her distinguished career. The physical award the group presented to Sister Donna came inscribed with an appropriate quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

During her remarks, Sister Donna, a former president of LCWR, praised her fellow women religious, telling those assembled that anyone in the room could have been standing on stage accepting the award. Sister Donna reflected on and celebrated the enduring commitment of women religious to the teachings of the Gospel and to serving those most in need.

“You and I have our own reservoirs of profound encounters that have changed us, transformed us, converted us,” Sister Donna said. “And standing along the holy edges of profound suffering, we know that we will never be the same again, and we become even more emboldened to live religious life in its full radicality.”

Sister Donna is retiring this summer after nine years guiding CCUSA, a national membership organization that represents the interests of Catholic Charities’ 167 member agencies and more than 3,900 locations that serve people in need in our country. Under Sister Donna’s innovative leadership, the Catholic Charities network across the U.S. and its territories has experienced tremendous growth and currently serves more than 15 million vulnerable people annually, regardless of their religious affiliation. Early in her tenure, she led a process that strategically aligned CCUSA’s priorities and advocacy efforts around affordable housing, integrated health, food and nutrition, immigration and refugee services, disaster services and workforce development. Sister Donna also oversaw CCUSA’s response to the pandemic, answering the call for increased assistance to reduce evictions, food insecurity and unemployment.

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.

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