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Cleveland Heritage Medal awarded to Sister Judith Ann Karam

News of the Diocese

November 24, 2023

Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, was one of five community leaders who received the prestigious 2023 Cleveland Heritage Medal last week at Cleveland City Hall. The award, begun in 2016 and modeled on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest award bestowed on a civilian in Greater Cleveland.

The Heritage Medal recognizes “meritorious contributions to the welfare and development of Greater Cleveland and its citizens.”

Sister Karam’s contributions included serving as the president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System from 1998 to 2013. Under her leadership, she oversaw the running of faith-based hospitals within Northeast Ohio, leading St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland and Mercy Medical Center in Canton; as well as Providence Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. She also was responsible for the Sisters’ three grant-making foundations, in Cleveland, Canton and South Carolina; and led other health and human services and education-related organizations across various ministries of the sisters.

“I am profoundly touched to receive the Cleveland Heritage Medal, and to be in the company of the other recipients, Jose Feliciano, George Forbes, Ted Ginn and Stephen Hoffman, amplifies the honor,” Sister Karam said. “It is with deep gratitude to the Cleveland Heritage Medal committee that they selected me, and I also give thanks to my community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, for their support as I have worked to carry out our mission.”

Janice Murphy, current president and CEO of the health system, said that the medal is a fitting tribute to Sister Karam, a health care pioneer who has dedicated her life and energy to serving the community for more than 60 years.

“This award further shines a light on Sr. Judith Ann’s ground-breaking leadership, and her continuation of the commitment that the Sisters of Charity have had to Clevelanders, beginning in 1851, particularly addressing the needs of the poor,” Murphy said.

In addition to her role as congregational leader, Sister Karam is the chair of the Public Juridic Person for the Sisters of Charity Health System. (The PJP is an entity created by the Catholic Church to carry out its mission). Other significant leadership roles have included serving as the major superior of her order and as board chair of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Her numerous local community contributions include serving on the boards of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Center for Health Affairs; the American Red Cross Cleveland Chapter; and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation; as well as being a member of the Cuyahoga County Executive’s panel of medical industry and business leaders to oversee the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center project.

In addition to the Cleveland Heritage Medal, Sister Karam has received scores of other awards including the Humanitarian Award from the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio in 2012; and the following year, received the Sam Miller Goodness Award from Project Love. She has been accorded multiple accolades from Walsh University, including receiving the Distinguished Service Medal.

Sister Karam earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Duquesne University and Master of Science in Hospital and Health Services Administration from The Ohio State University. She also was awarded an honorary degree -- Doctor of Humane Letters -- from Ursuline College. In 1998, she completed a sabbatical at The American College, Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. She is a 1986 graduate of Leadership Cleveland.

A Lakewood native, Sister Karam said she is a proud Clevelander and avid Cleveland Guardians fan.

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