Madonna Circle: Service, Fundraising and Fellowship


Service, Fundraising and Fellowship

By Lesley Harris Colvett
Photo courtesy of Madonna Circle

In 1936, a group of civic-minded ladies joined together in response to a need in the Memphis Community, founding the St. Catherine’s Junior Club to assist girls from out-of-town working in the “big city” of Memphis and living in the St. Catherine’s Home for Girls. Two years later, with a fast-growing membership and a desire to respond to additional community needs, a separate group was organized and named Madonna Circle. The membership grew over the years and in 1996 Madonna Circle incorporated as a nonprofit organization.

Still going strong, Madonna Circle boasts more than 350 members, has given almost $4 million dollars to the Memphis community, and provides more than 2000 hours of community service annually. Their mission is simple - to provide Catholic women with the opportunity for service, fellowship and spiritual growth while improving the Memphis community. They do this in the gospel tradition (Corporal Acts of Service and Mercy), but their contributions are magnanimous and serve all of Memphis, not just Catholic organizations.

While Madonna Circle has given back to the entire community for 87 years, membership is solely for Catholic women. They act as the hands of Jesus Christ when serving the Memphis community and do it with a loving heart. “Madonna Circle’s primary purpose is to volunteer and fundraise. We fundraise and help small 501(c)(3) organizations that are doing God’s work but are limited in their capacity to fundraise or fully provide their services by themselves,” says Patty Neuhoff, president 2023-24.
The sisterhood (no pun intended) of Madonna Circle can be felt at every meeting and fundraising gathering these ladies host. Father Ben Bradshaw of St. Michael Catholic Church is their chaplain, and he holds special masses and gives guidance to the organization.

Each year, Madonna Circle asks the community to apply to its grant program. Any 501(c)(3) organization is welcome to apply, and in January Madonna Circle chooses a primary recipient that will receive a large grant of around $40,000. The grant money is raised through a major sweepstakes campaign, where everyone in the community is invited to purchase a ticket on the Madonna Circle website and members share it on their social media. Prizes include one $5,000, three $1,000 and four $500 winners. This year’s winners will be drawn on March 5.

The next means of fundraising is through their annual fundraiser event/party, which may vary from year to year, and this year is “Rockin’ Trivia” on April 6 at Christian Brothers High School. This fun fundraiser will feature a night of trivia, auctions, drinks, and dinner. Money raised will benefit the Madonna Circle Blessing Fund, which is responsible for donating to smaller micro grants throughout the community. “This year, we will give over $65,000 for the micro grants,” says Amy Ryan, president 2019-20.

“Being a member of Madonna Circle opens up a wide range of volunteer services. One day we may be at a former Jubilee school, or we are down at Catholic Charities, St. Vincent De Paul or Missionary of Charities, serving hot meals. We are the go-to group to fundraise and help serve. And I love how we are carrying on a legacy of women who did this before we were even born,” Patty says.

“Madonna Circle is our faith in action. We think about the legacy of the women before us and honor their past, while we embrace the future needs of our community and members,” says Mary Ann Chism, president 2017-18. Meetings and service opportunities are accommodating to women’s busy schedules. “It warms my heart when I see these ladies at church and at our meetings and that we can all together do great good,” says Amy.

For more information on Madonna Circle, or interest in joining, visit

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