Two sisters become Members of the Order of Canada

Sion sisters, Rossbrook House staff, family and friends joined Sr. Bernadette O’Reilly and Sr. Margaret Hughes, NDS, as they were inducted into the Order of Canada on 6 June, in appreciation of the forty years of life they dedicated to the children and youth of inner city Winnipeg.

Srs Margaret and Bernadette arrived in Winnipeg in 1979, and set to work immediately with Sr Geraldine McNamara at the recently founded Rossbrook House, a drop-in youth centre. Both NDS sisters went on to develop permanent schooling projects for local children and youth. Sr Margaret helped start the elementary school programme Wi Wabigooni – which translates as: “a flower unfolding”. Sr Bernadette started Rising Sun, a high school programme.

The fact that children who attended are now, as adults, among those running Rossbrook House testifies to the role the sisters has had in giving a purpose to children who would otherwise have had less opportunities.

The Order of Canada is the country’s highest civilian honour, recognising outstanding achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation. The medals were presented by Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty on behalf of the Governor General of Canada. Lt. Mirasty thanked the sisters in his Northern Saskatchewan first language, Woodland Cree, for their contributions to the city of Winnipeg.

Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty congratulates Sr Bernadette (left) and Sr Margaret (right).

Upon accepting the award, Sr Margaret summed up what the Winnipeg experience means to her. “I receive it humbly, celebrating the number of corageous children who gave school another chance,” she said. “It was my privilege and joy to walk with them, to share their joy in learning, their laughter, their humour and their love of life.”

Sr Bernadette agreed that the youth and young adults at Rossbrook House should share deeply in the recognition. “The success of Rossbrook House belongs to the youth and the staff who created and continue to create a place of community, of safety, of learning, of growth, and of very deep friendships,” she said.

The two sisters have received many expressions of thanks and congratulations. Rossbrook House’s Facebook page calls them “loving teachers and inspiring leaders.”, and Sr Bernadette’s brother, Paul Bavington, who presided the award ceremony, described them as “Righteous in the bestest possible way.”