Three Stories from Sudbury, Ontario
first met Léo when I was in High School. I was volunteering for the Red Cross
and he was working with Development et Paix, a faith based social justice
organisation whose aim is to improve living and working conditions of people
around the world. With a team of volunteers, we organised the first Rich Man
Poor Man Dinner in Sudbury.
that, he worked with Contact Interculturel Sudbury, an organisation that works
on welcoming and helping newcomers to the community. He also started Village
International; Sudbury’s equivalent to Ten Thousand Villages.
2000, he moved on to Maison La Paix; a supervised housing unit for people
living with HIV-AIDS. He accompanied a few of his clients in their last days
and was deeply touched by this experience. Seeing a great need for a Palliative
care facility in Northeastern Ontario, in 2007, he gathered community support
and spearheaded a project to create a Hospice for those at the end of their
lives. Since 2008, he has been Executive Director of the only Palliative care
facility in Sudbury. His next project is adding a space for respite care to the
is recognised for his dedication to the community and to those in need. He is a
soft spoken man who can convince anyone to participate in any initiative he
Suzanne and Denis Benard
Suzanne and Denis are central members in our parish. But they are so humble and discrete that you woudn’t know it. And that pretty much describes all of their life together. Over the past 30 years, they significantly touched the lives of dozen’s of children. But to look at them and speak with them, you woudn’t know it because they don’t think of themselves as exceptional. They just do what needs to be done. Here is their story.
was one of the oldest of a large family in our parish. I went to school with
her youngest sister. When I was about 11 or 12, Suzanne asked me to babysit her
three girls and that’s when I got the priviledge to meet one of the most
amazing and inspiring couples I know.
While raising their daughters, Suzanne and Denis opened their home and arms to other children who needed love and stability. Thirty years ago, they became a foster-family. They even adopted one of the children who came to them.
little girl had suffered severe neglect as an infant and toddler. At almost
four years of age, she could hardly walk, she didn’t speak, she was
malnourished and was still in diapers. If you saw this confident 30 year old
today, you would never know the hardships she went through. Yes, she is
intellectually challenged and has significant health issues. And thanks to the
love and patience of this family unit, she has flourished. Today, this girl who
coudn’t speak is fluently bilingual and is an active volunteer in her
community. This is only one example of how this family significantly touched a
life. But there are many more stories of children they touched and transformed.
wasn’t always easy. They overcame great difficulties. At 10, their middle child
developed anorexia, Suzanne struggled with a recurring cancer and more
recently, Denis was operated for cancer also. But regardless of all of these
hardships, they persevere. They are in their 60s and have three foster children
as well as their adopted daughter living with them. And at Christmas, the table
is always full as many of the foster children come back to be with family.
not sure what was in the well water on their farm, but Lucy is one of Suzanne’s
younger sisters. Now in her 50’s, as a young woman, she trained as a pediatric
nurse specializing in critical care.
that many children were not adopted because of health problems, she and her
husband decided to give a permanent home to some of these children instead of
having their own. They adopted three children with disabilities who are now
caring and responsible teenagers and young adults. Fifteen years ago, she and
her husband also became a foster home for preemies and newborns with mild to
severe health issues.
what that entails. As young parents, we are told that the sleepless nights only
last a little while because babies grow. But they always had a newborn in their
midst. Not only getting up at all hours for feedings and diaper changes, and
colics, but also getting attached to these little beings and then having to let
them go. Driving from Sudbury to Toronto or Ottawa for endless medical
appointments and operations with pediatric specialists.
Two years ago, Lucy’s husband passed away. Her 85 year old mother moved in with her and together, they keep on caring for babies and young children with health issues.
This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday. They are posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them. I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.