Who We Are

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.

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.

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:

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

Celia Chandler photo

Celia Chandler Toronto, ON

Mary Corkery photo

Mary Corkery Toronto, ON

Jason Dudek photo

Jason Dudek Winnipeg, MB

Sr Jean Gove photo

Sr Jean Gove Toronto, ON

Mary Halder photo

Mary Halder Toronto, ON

Peter Hough photo

Peter Hough Halifax, NS

MaryAnne McCarthy photo

M A McCarthy Toronto, ON

Bob McKeon photo

Bob McKeon Edmonton, AB

Anna McNally photo

Anna McNally Toronto, 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

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.

Valerie Lemieux photo

Valerie Lemieux General Director

Anne Mark photo

Anne Mark Program Officer

Shanjitha Rajasingam photo

S Rajasingam Admin Assistant

Desmond Wilson photo

D Wilson Financial Officer

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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 CDF’s Ten Year Report (PDF)
VIDEO LINK to the Ten Years of Granting video