New Catholic Charities USA head is a laywoman

Kerry Alys Robinson is the new president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.
Credit: Catholic Charities USA

Catholic leadership expert and philanthropist Kerry Alys Robinson will be the next president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, the domestic humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church in the U.S. whose affiliates serve more than 15 million people per year.

“The Gospels call Catholics and all people of goodwill to serve those most in need of our aid,” Robinson said July 25. “The staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities agencies around the country answer that call every day: feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, and welcoming the stranger. I am deeply honored and profoundly humbled to be a part of this life-giving mission.”

Catholic Charities has 167 member agencies and 3,900 locations across the U.S., including five U.S. territories. The agencies are engaged in various projects including hunger relief, housing assistance, disaster aid, health care, job training, and assistance for migrants and refugees.

“Kerry’s entire professional life has been devoted to serving and bettering our Church,” said Neal Black, chair of the board of Catholic Charities USA. He said the board voted “unanimously and enthusiastically” to appoint Robinson following “an exhaustive national search.”

“We are confident that the Catholic Charities network and the millions of vulnerable people it serves each year will greatly benefit from Kerry’s extraordinary passion, expertise, and insight,” Black said.

The outgoing president and CEO, Sister Donna Markham, OP, is retiring this summer after eight years heading Catholic Charities USA. Markham praised Robinson’s appointment.

“I am confident that her visionary leadership, devotion to the Church, and sincere commitment to serving those in need will bring out the best in our staff, volunteers, and supporters,” she said.

Robinson will begin her new role on Aug. 23. She is presently an executive partner of Leadership Roundtable, an influential effort of Catholic laity, clergy, and religious that seeks to promote best practices in management and leadership in Catholic organizations. She was the founding executive director of the organization, which launched in 2005.

She is also the executive director of the Opus Prize Foundation, which partners with Catholic universities to give a $1 million prize each year to honor individuals and organizations of any faith background whose ministry helps alleviate human suffering.

Robinson has also advised Church figures about how to empower and engage women leaders. She is the second woman and second layperson to head the national agency. Robinson is also an author and speaker. Her book “Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy and a Spiritual Call to Service,” published in 2014 by Liturgical Press, describes itself as “an inspirational and practical guide to effective fundraising” for anyone in a faith community. She has published work in the Jesuits’ America Magazine, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Chicago Catholic, and other publications.

Her philanthropic background is a family legacy. Her great-grandfather was the late John J. Raskob, an executive and businessman who built the Empire State Building. With his wife Helena, he established the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities in 1945.

Robinson is a member of the Raskob Foundation as well as the consortium Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA). She has served as an adviser and trustee of more than 25 grantmaking foundations, nonprofits, and family foundations.

For 15 years, Robinson was a member of the national committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Robinson, a graduate of Georgetown University and Yale Divinity School, is a former director of development for Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University. She has two children with her husband, Dr. Michael Cappello, an epidemiology and pediatrics professor at the Yale School of Public Health and at the Yale School of Medicine.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, Florida, the U.S. bishops’ liaison to Catholic Charities, said the agency is “truly blessed” to have Robinson as its next CEO.

“No doubt Kerry’s vast experience and skills will be an asset to both the organization and those whom it serves,” the bishop said. “Please join me in prayer that the Lord may grant her wisdom and zeal as she takes up her new leadership responsibilities.”

Catholic Charities USA’s latest annual report, for the year 2021, says its member agencies fed 12 million people at almost 2,700 food distribution sites and provided 1.9 million nights of emergency shelter. Agencies provided more than 34,500 permanent housing units for beneficiaries including families, seniors, and veterans, and had over 6,000 affordable housing units under construction.

These Catholic relief agencies provided $116 million in domestic disaster aid, behavior health and wellness services to 600,000 people, and assistance to 608,000 migrants and refugees.

The agencies provided job training to more than 20,000 people and helped them earn 2,300 professional certifications or credentials.

In 2021 Catholic Charities USA received $43.1 million in financial support, including $28.9 million in contributions and $2 million in federal grants.

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