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Who We Are

sky Our Philanthropic Approach

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation is committed to promoting positive social change by funding a combination of programs and projects in our priority areas of Environment, Housing, Adult Education and Impact Investing. Our efforts in this respect are intended to promote joint action and networking by enabling key institutional actors to combine their efforts, to build on one anothers strengths, constituencies and common experiences in pursuit of social change objectives.

The Foundation recognizes that our granting and investing process is influenced by a Western colonial approach and is committed to integrating an Indigenous-influenced perspective with an intention of moving towards a decolonized approach to philanthropy (as grantmakers, communicators and investors) to enhance CDFs overall effectiveness in the philanthropic sector.

In moving towards a decolonized approach to philanthropy the Foundation seeks to promote a power dynamic different from the standard grantor-recipient relationship. We will seek initiatives that promote community decision-making and control over community resources. In integrating an Indigenous-influenced perspective, we recognize the need for flexible program areas that show fluidity and appreciation for Indigenous worldviews that all life human and nonhuman is interrelated. This flexibility will encourage the exploration of more crosscutting work between housing, environment and adult education including investment opportunities in housing, Indigenous-led initiatives and green / sustainable energy.

Our Vision

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation's vision is to collaborate with others to create a world that respects and reverences creation; a world where all have a voice and can live with dignity to realize their full potential, a world that is open to transformation and one that seeks justice, peace and respect for all.

Our Mission

Committed to Gospel values, the Foundation strives to transform the lives of those most in need by proactively supporting creative initiatives in the areas of housing, adult education and the environment.

Our Commitment to Reconciliation

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation is the legacy of a progressive community of Catholic women religious. We acknowledge the histories between the Christian churches and Indigenous peoples in Canada, and the impacts of colonialism that continue to this day. The Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have created an historic opportunity for a growing movement of people of faith and civil society to work toward reconciliation.

As a signatory to the Philanthropic Declaration of Action, and in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Recommendations, the Foundation acknowledges the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation in Canada.

The Foundation is committed to right relations by actively seeking to build mutually respectful relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Mtis peoples through proactively supporting creative initiatives in the area of Adult Education, Housing, the Environment and Impact Investing.

Land Acknowledgment

Our work extends to regions across Canada, and we acknowledge the treaty rights and the unceded Aboriginal rights and title of Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island.

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation acknowledges the land on which we are located. It has been a site of human activity since time immemorial. This land has been a Haudenosaunee-speaking territory for centuries, as well as Huron-Wendat, Petun, and Seneca; most recently the Mississaugas of New Credit.

The territory is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement later made between the Haudenosaunee confederacy (Six Nations/Iroquois), and the confederacy of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.

Today the meeting place of Tkaronto is the home of many Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island and we are grateful for the opportunity to share this land. We are also mindful of broken covenants and the need to strive to make right with all our relations.

photo of board and staff of CDF

Our Values

The mission of the Foundation is rooted in the following values:

Dignity of the Person

The belief that every person has inherent dignity and worth by virtue of being created by God and therefore entitled to an equitable share of the resources of God's universe.

Spirituality of Service

Our service, marked by justice and compassion, is inspired by biblical values and Christian principles and the Gospel directive that Christ came into the world not to be served but to serve (Mk 10:45).

Innovative and Creative Ideas

The Foundation believes in ideas that demonstrate proactive and creative responses to needs in the three areas of funding.


The Foundation believes that cooperative ventures with other agencies of similar values ensure a more effective service to needs in the three funding areas.


The Foundation will be biased towards projects and initiatives that simultaneously try to address more than one of the particular needs chosen for its support in the three areas for funding.

Ecological Integrity & Environmental Sustainability

The Foundation believes in the critical need for ecological integrity and environmental sustainability, out of which comes a profound conviction that a fundamental shift toward a holistic earth-centered value system is imperative.

Our History
SOS van photo SOS trail photo Catherine Donnelly photo

Our History

Established in 2003, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation is the human and financial legacy of a remarkable group of women religious, The Sisters of Service. The Foundation is a living testament to the Sisters' tradition of response to the greatest needs in communities across Canada.

The Foundation honours and builds upon the spirit of service and dedication that inspired Catherine Donnelly, the foundress of the community. It affirms the inherent dignity of every person and the sacredness of creation. It seeks to extend the radical commitment to social change, and to empower the marginalized that characterized the sisters' every action.

Animated by the Christian faith that inspired the Sisters' work, the Foundation is a lay-religious alliance that supports projects and programs designed to promote social and ecological justice and to engage those that have been overlooked and excluded.

The Story of Catherine Donnelly

The story of Catherine Donnelly began with her birth on February 26, 1884 in Alliston, Ontario. Catherine grew up to be an adventurous woman. After many years of teaching experience, this adventurous spirit led her on a journey to Alberta in 1918 to teach in the rural areas where immigrant families were settling. Shortly after her arrival, the Spanish influenza epidemic swept through western Canada and the government closed the schools. She volunteered to nurse the sick in their homes. This was a soul-searching experience as she came to realize the great lack of spiritual and material resources for the families and their children.

A devout Roman Catholic and an ardent Canadian patriot, Catherine's experience there demonstrated to her that the struggling church in western Canada was ill-prepared to serve the increasing numbers of new Canadian settlers. She became convinced that only dedicated Sisters living with and among the people would enable them to remain faithful to their Catholic and Christian heritage. Her inspiration led to the founding of a new Canadian Catholic Women's Religious Order. The Sisters of Service were founded in Toronto in 1922. They were to dedicate their lives to the care of these newcomers, helping them to remain faithful to their Catholic heritage.

Catherine's gift was a holistic approach to life and mission, seeing the spiritual, social and cultural needs of all people and a way of being church where the church was not present. The Sisters would live in small groups, in scattered settlements being the ministering church for those most in need. To carry out their mission, the Sisters of Service taught in public schools with a strong emphasis on home visiting, operated small rural hospitals, taught religion by mail, provided immigration services at the ports of entry to Canada and established hostels in the major cities across Canada. Cooperating with public agencies, the Sisters aided the integration and adjustment of those most in need to take their place in Canadian society.

Sister Catherine Donnelly died at the Sisters of Service Retirement Center in St Catharines, Ontario September 5, 1983. The Catherine Donnelly Foundation, in partnership with the wider community, will continue the unique history of missionary service in Canada so as to celebrate, honour and extend the vision, mission and values of the Sisters of Service.

For more information on the Sisters of Service visit their website at

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Our People

Our Board

The Board of Directors is entrusted with Stewardship of the Foundation which includes honouring the principles, values and vision of the Sisters of Service and foundress, Catherine Donnelly.

The CDF Board is currently comprised of the following members:

Jean Gove, CSJ, Toronto, ON
Georgette Gregory, CSJ, Toronto, ON
Mary Halder, SOS, Toronto, ON
Kelly Holmes, Winnipeg, MB
Peter Hough, Halifax, NS, Board Chair
Anne-Marie Jackson, Toronto, ON
Sara Mainville, Toronto, ON
Bob McKeon, Edmonton, AB, Past Chair
Richard Morgan, Ottawa, ON
Michael Murphy, Saskatoon, SK
Lorraine Neale, Toronto, ON, Secretary
Darcy Riddell, Vancouver, BC
Paul Rowe, St. John's, Nfld, Vice-Chair
Frances Sanderson, Toronto, ON, Treasurer
Ayon Shahed, St. John's, Nfld

To learn more about a Board member,
please click on their photo or name.

Jean Gove photo

Jean Gove, CSJ
Toronto, ON

Georgette Gregory photo

G. Gregory, CSJ
Toronto, ON

Mary Halder photo

Mary Halder, SOS
Toronto, ON

Kelly Holmes photo

Kelly Holmes
Winnipeg, MB

Peter Hough photo

Peter Hough
Halifax, NS

Anne-Marie Jackson photo

Anne-Marie Jackson
Toronto, ON

Sara Mainville photo

Sara Mainville
Toronto, ON

Bob McKeon photo

Bob McKeon
Edmonton, AB

Richard Morgan photo

Richard Morgan
Ottawa, ON

Michael Murphy photo

Michael Murphy
Saskatoon, SK

Lorraine Neale photo

Lorraine Neale
Toronto, ON

Darcy Riddell photo

Darcy Riddell
Vancouver, BC

Paul Rowe photo

Paul Rowe
St John's, Nfld

Frances Sanderson photo

F Sanderson
Toronto, ON

Devika Shah photo

Devika Shah
Toronto, ON

Ayon Shahed photo

Ayon Shahed
St John's, Nfld

Our Committees

Our Foundation is supported by volunteer resource persons with extensive experience and acknowledged expertise in a particular field of endeavour. Resource persons are full voting members of the Committee for which they have been recruited.

To learn more about a Committee member,
please click on their photo or name.

Tessa Hebb photo

Tessa Hebb
Ottawa, ON

Lindsey Hepburn photo

Lindsey Hepburn
Toronto, ON

Elly Kaas photo

Elly Kaas
Toronto, ON

Marc Maracle photo

Marc Maracle
Ottawa, ON

Our Staff

The Board is supported by employees who
provide administrative, outreach, grants and
financial management.

To learn more about a staff member,
please click on their photo or name.

Claire Barcik photo

Claire Barcik
Executive Director

Steve Brearton photo

Steve Brearton
& Policy Officer

Anne Mark photo

Anne Mark
of Programs

Shanjitha Rajasingam photo

S Rajasingam

Mritunjay Sinha photo

MJ Sinha
Director Finance
& Investment

Shorna James photo

Shorna James
Finance Administrator

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CDF Biennial Report 2018 – 2019

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation’s 2018-2019 Biennial Report highlights the recent work of the foundation and explains how a set of core practices helped us re-imagine how to interact with social-change organizations, communities and residents so they can create effective change. Read about our partnerships and programs in the areas of adult education, housing and the environment by

DOWNLOADING a printable copy of the CDF Report (PDF).

CDF Biennial Report 2016 - 2017

This report documents the challenges that the Foundation’s board and staff have been grappling with as we seek to integrate an Indigenous-influenced perspective into our granting and investing process in order to “decolonize” our philanthropic approach. It also shares the learning that is emerging as we participate in community-driven coalitions aimed at preventing and ending youth homelessness, championing the right to a healthy environment and “righting relations” by addressing social, cultural, political, economic and environmental issues.

DOWNLOAD a printable copy of the CDF Biennial Report (PDF)

CDF Indigenous-Focused Funding (2005-2017)

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation has been awarding grants since 2005. An analysis of the Foundation’s funding over the last twelve years reveals that although there was not a stated priority given to Indigenous-focused initiatives until 2016, the Foundation has been consistently supporting projects in this area since its inception. This document reflects the range of engagement to date across the Foundation’s three funding streams (Adult Education, Environment, and Housing). We hope this will provide some context to help guide the Foundation as we seek to further integrate an Indigenous focus to our work into the future.

DOWNLOAD a printable copy of CDF Indigenous-Focused Funding (PDF)

CDF Strategic Priorities Report

The next five years will see the Catherine Donnelly Foundation consciously integrating an Indigenous-influenced perspective/lens into our work by engaging in an educational process that would foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous issues as well as sharing and using the learning from the Adult Educations Righting Relations program. A commitment to meet the 10% Impact investing goal was reaffirmed with the understanding that additional resources (staff) may be required. The Board affirms and carries forward the Sisters values and legacy while implementing programs that are responsive to the ever-changing needs of society/environment.

DOWNLOAD a printable copy of CDFs Strategic Priorities Report (PDF)

CDF Celebrates Ten Years of Granting

Join the Catherine Donnelly Foundation as we celebrate ten years of granting to housing, adult education, and environmental enhancement initiatives across Canada. Our ten year report profiles our history, successes, challenges, and way forward. The report and accompanying video reflect the story of our founders the Sisters of Service, statistics on where and who we have granted to, and the impacts we have made to date.

DOWNLOAD a printable copy of CDFs Ten Year Report (PDF)
VIDEO LINK to the Ten Years of Granting video

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The Catherine Donnelly Foundation's work extends to regions across Canada, and we acknowledge the treaty rights and the unceded Aboriginal rights and title of Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island.