Alexandria, Va. –Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) is pleased to announce that Nancy Cook Owens, program director at the Room to Grow Early Childhood Learning Center, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, is the recipient of the 2021 Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Award. CCUSA’s Bishop Sullivan Award recognizes a person working at a Catholic Charities agency who has distinguished herself/himself in the area of helping children, youth and families.

Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, president and CEO of CCUSA, noted the exemplary service that Owens has provided in her role at the learning center, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Like so many Catholic Charities staff around the country, Nancy remained on the job to meet the challenges of the pandemic by implementing safety protocols, remote learning, and curbside food pick-ups for the children and families in her care.”

Owens began working for Catholic Charities in 1996, when she helped to open the agency’s first childhood learning center. As program director she reached out to the working poor families of East Norwalk, an economically depressed neighborhood, to make them aware of the pre-school. The school is now at its current capacity of 132 children.

Mike Donoghue, executive director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, in nominating Owens praised her for consistent hard work and compassion: “Nancy extends herself to address crises among her families, whether it’s to pay for the funeral of a student or to help access diapers. During the pandemic, she selflessly came into the office each and every day. She’s been an inspiration to all who have walked this difficult journey with her.”

Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc. is the largest social service provider in Connecticut. Since 1916, Catholic Charities has served Fairfield County with programs that feed the hungry and homebound, shelter the homeless, strengthen families, assist the physically and emotionally challenged, and deliver consultation and assistance to immigrants. For more information, please call 203.416.1503 or visit us at

Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan (deceased) served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and was revered nationwide for his concern for the poor and marginalized. In 1961 he was appointed Assistant Director of Catholic Charities’ Childcare Division. Four years later he was named the Director. In 1968 Bishop Sullivan became Executive Director of Catholic Charities and was elected Executive Vice-President of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities in 1979. Throughout his ministry he championed the needs of children.