Sister Donna Markham, OP, Witnesses History at the Signing of the Infrastructure Bill

Vice President Kamala Harris addresses a crowd of about 800 people attending the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Photo by Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD

November 17, 2021, Washington, D.C. – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) was an eyewitness to history November 15, 2021, as she watched President Joe Biden sign the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“This is historic,” Sister Donna said in an interview. “It’s a once-in-a-generation event, the largest infrastructure bill that has ever been undertaken in the United States … and the single largest investment since the construction of the interstate highway. It was really being part of history.” 

Sister Donna said she was invited to the signing because of her leadership of an organization that serves 15 million vulnerable people throughout the United States every year. “We are the largest provider of services outside of the federal government,” she said. She was attending the event with members of both houses of Congress, as well as mayors, governors, representatives of labor unions, and representatives of organizations that serve the working class and the working poor.

Still, she was surprised and thrilled at the invitation – which came at 5 p.m. on the Friday before the Monday signing. “The White House never gives you a lot of notice.” Sister Donna arrived early for the event, knowing she would have to clear security checkpoints. Speakers included Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and President Biden.

Along with the historic nature of the event, Sister Donna is especially thrilled at the impact of the bill on the people served by CCUSA. “It’ll be years in its unfolding, but it will do wonderful things,” she said. The bill “makes a huge investment in clean energy,” moving the country away from fossil fuels.

All of these improvements will provide good-paying jobs – key for the people served by CCUSA, Sister Donna said. “There will be so many opportunities for people to get fine jobs,” she said, noting that the local Catholic Charities agencies will work with the people they serve to help them get some of those jobs.   

People served by CCUSA will also benefit from the clean-up of drinking water throughout the country as lead pipes throughout the nation are replaced. “Whether in the rural area, the city, or the tribal nations, those who are disadvantaged are going to really benefit from that part of this investment,” Sister Donna said. She also sees the advantages of greater access to high-speed internet – so that mothers don’t have to take children to use the Internet at places like McDonald’s to complete their homework. 

“I hope it’s implemented in a timely fashion and gets the country moving in the right direction,” she said, adding that she finds great hope from the fact that the bill found bipartisan support.