From the article: “We know engaging the next generation is beneficial to everybody, and it strengthens our mission,” said Dr. Maria Robinson who chairs the FADICA board“Part of that engagement is passing on faith and values that began with the foundation and has been incorporated in everything that we do,” she said.


Thursday July 29, 2021

(Washington, DC) –

Maka Akan Najin Black Elk, a leader in Native American and Catholic education for truth, healing and reconciliation, has been unanimously selected by the FADICA Board of Directors as the recipient of the organization’s 2021 Distinguished Catholic Leadership Award. The Distinguished Catholic Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding initiative, a spirit of service and visionary leadership in contributing to the renewal and vitality of the Catholic Church.   

In selecting Maka Black Elk for this award, FADICA identified Black Elk’s courageous leadership to address historical trauma and racial justice through the significant truth and healing process at Red Cloud Indian School, a Jesuit institution on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota; his faith-filled and inclusive approach to healing and reconciliation; and his leadership in the American Indian Catholic Schools Network and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. With this recognition, Black Elk joins past award recipients who inspire greater leadership and service among Catholics for the Church and the common good.

“Maka Akan Najin Black Elk is a person of deep faith, who is putting Catholic values into action to build a future of hope and healing,” said Alexia Kelley, President and CEO of FADICA, the leading philanthropic peer network serving as a catalyst for a vital Catholic Church and the common good. “Mr. Black Elk is leading ground-breaking and critical work at the local and national level for truth and reconciliation in our Church and our country,” said Kelley.

Black Elk graduated from the University of San Francisco and then earned a Master’s degree in Peace and Human Rights Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, as well as a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Notre Dame. 

He is a citizen of Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota, a descendent of boarding school survivors, and a graduate of Red Cloud Indian School.  Black Elk later served as a teacher and educational administrator at Red Cloud Indian School before assuming his current role. 

As Executive Director for Truth and Healing at Red Cloud Indian School, Black Elk’s responsibilities include organizing, planning, supporting, and guiding the larger institution in engagement with the community in a truth and healing process related to the oppression caused by the historical boarding school experience.  He provides professional development, training, and dialogue opportunities on a range of topics including racial reconciliation, and partners with community groups, tribal governments, and nonprofits to develop a network of support.

"I am truly humbled and honored by FADICA's vote of confidence for the work I support,” said Black Elk. “I strongly believe that the Catholic Church should broadly recognize the need for us as a faith community to engage in the sacramental calling for reconciliation. My hope is that we more closely live out a faith that does justice."

In a recent article on the history of Red Cloud Indian School by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, writer MegAnne Liebsch explains:

“[Red Cloud Indian School] was historically a part of a national U.S. policy to assimilate indigenous peoples into white American culture. Through its Indian Boarding School Policy, the federal government compelled attendance at boarding schools where students were prohibited from speaking their language or practicing their culture. An estimated 100,000 children attended these schools — many of which were run by Catholic religious orders.”

The Jesuits offered an official apology to the Lakota people in 1993.

The 2021 Distinguished Catholic Leadership Award will be presented to Maka Akan Najin Black Elk at FADICA’s 2021 Symposium and Annual Spiritual Retreat which will be held in Minneapolis, Minn., October 7-8, 2021.


Maka Akan Najin Black Elk and Alexia Kelley are available for interviews.

To learn more about Maka Black Elk’s work, visit the Red Cloud Indian School “Truth and Healing” website found here.


FADICA is the leading philanthropic peer network serving as a catalyst for a vital Catholic Church, Catholic ministries, and the common good. We promote the growth and effectiveness of Catholic philanthropy inspired by the joy of the Gospel and the Catholic social tradition. FADICA supports its members through education, exchange, fellowship and faith, research, joint funding opportunities, and interaction with Catholic leadership.  For more information on FADICA, visit: https://www.fadica.org/


New initiative aims to bring philanthropic community together to build safer cultures

(Washington, DC) – Today, Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA) announces the formal launch of its “Commitment to Child and Vulnerable Adult Protectioninitiative. This multi-year program seeks to protect vulnerable persons by building safer organizational cultures through specific steps outlined in its Funder Safeguarding Pledge. Inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, this initiative affirms the inherent dignity of the human person, as well as philanthropy’s role in promoting safeguarding best practices.

“Safeguarding is a public value and a priority for us as a Catholic philanthropic network,” said Alexia Kelley, President & CEO, FADICA. “Funders can play a critical role in making safeguarding a standard organizational best practice.”

Washington, DC (July 30, 2020) -- In announcing its 2020 awardees, FADICA celebrates five outstanding Catholic leaders for their meaningful contributions to Church and society, and their exemplary lives of service. “Each one of the awardees is a person of deep faith who give us hope and inspiration, especially during this challenging time,” said Alexia Kelley, President and CEO of FADICA, the leading philanthropic peer network serving as a catalyst for a vital Catholic Church and the common good. “FADICA is privileged to recognize each of them,” said Kelley.

Two of FADICA’s member-sponsored initiatives, which respond to the current pandemic, have recently been featured in the news. Sisters on the Frontlines, an innovative program that equips individual Catholic sisters with $1,000 each to assist people on the margins most affected by COVID, appeared in Catholic News Service and National Catholic Reporter.  In addition, FADICA’s recently released report, “Open Wide the Doors to Christ: A Study of Catholic Social Innovation for Parish Vitality” was featured in Crux and NCR.  You can find out more about Sisters on the Frontlines at Catholic Extension, which is administering the project. For more information about FADICA’s COVID-related initiatives, visit our dedicated webpage.