Mary Ellen Russell

Executive Director

Mary Ellen Russell was appointed Executive Director of the Maryland Catholic Conference in November 2008. Russell has also served as an associate director and deputy director of the Conference since joining the staff in 1995, focusing primarily on coordinating legislative advocacy efforts affecting Maryland’s Catholic and other nonpublic schools.

Russell is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors, and serves on the board of Archbishop Spalding High School and Project Bridges.  She is a past member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, the board of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, and past co-chair of the Maryland State Superintendent’s Nonpublic Schools Workgroup. Russell also worked for several years as Assistant Secretary for Parental Advocacy at the USCCB.

Russell holds an M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis, and a B.A. in English from Boston College. She and her husband live in Annapolis, where they have raised four sons. Her husband is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and serves at St. Mary's Parish in Annapolis.

Mike Gathagan

Director of Communications

Mike Gathagan joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as the Director of Communications in February 2015 after 14 years as the Vice President of Communications for the Maryland Jockey Club.

Gathagan graduated from Towson University in 1987 with Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication. He has worked in public relations and media for nearly 30 years, including stints with WMAR-TV, the Baltimore Stallions and the Washington Wizards.

A founding board member of the Brigance Brigade Foundation, Gathagan, his wife and two teenage daughters are active parishioners at the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley.

Jennifer L. Briemann

Associate Director, Respect for Life

Jennifer Briemann joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director, Respect for Life in August 2016.  Her Department advocates for policies affecting the inherent value and dignity of human life at all stages.

Briemann is a graduate of the The Seton Keough High School in Baltimore and graduated cum laude from Salisbury University (B.A. Political Science). Thereafter, she earned a Juris Master degree in Law & Economics from George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.  Prior to joining the Maryland Catholic Conference, Briemann gained extensive experience advocating before numerous state legislatures as a lobbyist for both public and private sector interests, including two Fortune 100 companies. She, her husband, and their young son are parishioners at Our Lady of The Chesapeake in Pasadena.

Dana Davenport

Associate Director, Social and Economic Justice

Dana Davenport joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as the Associate Director for Social and Economic Justice in October 2014. Her advocacy efforts focus primarily on poverty, immigration, and health care, but also extend to employment and environmental issues.

Davenport graduated cum laude from Hood College with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BSW). Prior to joining the Conference, Davenport graduated from University of Michigan with a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) with advanced standing. Her background includes management, research, and policy with a focus on children, youth, and families.

Garrett J. O'Day, Esq.

Associate Director, Education, Children and Families

Garrett O’Day joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director for Education, Children and Families in May 2013.  His Department advocates for policies that promote the success and wellbeing of Maryland’s families and children, including the approximately 50,000 students attending the state’s Catholic schools.      

O’Day graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York (Binghamton) and then earned a Juris Doctor from California Western School of Law. Prior to joining the Maryland Catholic Conference, O’Day practiced law in New York. He is admitted to practice law in Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia.

Mariann Hughes

Associate Director, Advocacy and Outreach

Mariann Hughes has worked as the Associate Director for Advocacy and Outreach at the Maryland Catholic Conference since September 2011. She graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Journalism from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Her background includes television and print news, publishing and communications.

Prior to the Conference, Hughes worked as a designer at a Virginia newspaper, and then as a communications associate at the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. She grew up in Michigan before attending Franciscan University.

Katharina Acosta

Latino Outreach Coordinator

Katharina Acosta joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as the Latino Outreach Coordinator in August 2016. She most recently worked at Healthcare for the Homeless in Baltimore and also served in the past as the Hispanic Ministry coordinator for St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis, where she also serves as a cantor. She brings a deep love of her Catholic faith, experienced skills in and a passion for advocacy.  

Acosta holds a Bachelors of Music degree from The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America. During her undergrad, she was heavily involved in the Campus Youth and Music Ministry. She is a section leader in the choir and cantor at The National Shrine of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.