Donna Markham

Donna Markham becomes first female leader of Catholic Charities USA

Donna Markham

In a surprising turn of events, Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham has emerged as the anointed successor to Father Larry Snyder as head of Catholic Charities USA, the national office for Catholic Charities agencies nationwide.

The announcement, which was made via an official press release from the Washington headquarters of the organization on the January 12, pens down Sister Markham’s name in the books of history as the first ever female president in Catholic Charities USA’s 105-year history. It was founded in 1910.

“After a nationwide search, Sister Donna was selected based on her extensive relevant experience, her demonstrated leadership skills and her deep sense of commitment to the poor,” the official press release, which is fully available on the National Catholic Reporter website, partly reads.

Markham, who is currently president of the Behavioral Health Institute for Mercy Health, will officially take the reins of power on June 1 from Father Snyder, who will be returning to his Priestly duties at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Donna Markham who is a board-certified clinical psychologist with a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Detroit, expressed her excitement over the selection in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service, saying the it is “a wonderful story” that three of the United States’ leading Catholic service organizations are headed by women, listing Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, and Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, as a Catholic Sun publication reported.

“I see myself as number three — at least. It’s the first time for Catholic Charities, but certainly not the first time in this country,” Sister Donna said.

As a professional, Sister Donna is in a class of her own, as her portfolio exudes of rich academic qualifications, experience and awards.

Born in Illinois north of Chicago, Markham saw most of her growing days in Michigan and Ontario, before she went ahead to earn her first college degree at the University of Toronto.

Sister Markham acted in the capacity of president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious from 1991 – 1992 on a one-year term, and later was prioress of the Adrian Dominican congregation in Michigan from 2004 to 2010. Donna was also a two-time board Chairman as a member of Catholic Charities’ board of trustees, where she served a total of eight years.

Sister Donna also served a 10-year term as the president of the Southdown Institute in Ontario. She was also the founding Director of the Dominican Consultation Center in Detroit, where she put in a total of 13 years.

Sister Donna Markham is expected to “bring to Catholic Charities USA remarkable credentials as a religious sister, as an expert in the area of clinical psychology and the delivery of mental health services as well as experience as the former president and CEO of the Southdown Institute.”

In her response to her selection as the President of the Catholic Charities USA, she said “there can be no greater call than to serve and advocate on behalf of persons who struggle to get by in a world where they are all too frequently relegated to the margins of society and where they long for dignity, hope and compassion,” said Sister Donna in a statement, adding she was “honored and humbled” by her selection. “I feel blessed to walk among the many dedicated Catholic Charities workers across the country who daily make the Gospel come alive through their care for their sisters and brothers in need.”

Catholic Charities USA is the National office for all the Catholic Charities agencies spread across the country, and it is mandated to assist a combined 9 million+ lives every year, without religious, social or economic considerations or discrimination.


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