Sister Lesley Sacouman

Honorary Doctorate

Sister Lesley Sacouman

No child who does not want to be alone, should ever have to be.

Spoken by Sister Geraldine MacNamara, these words have become a mission and a message: everyone deserves security, safety, and opportunity, and no one will be turned away.

They’re words that keep the staff of Rossbrook House grounded, and they outline the mission of its current director Sister Lesley Sacouman.

Co-founded by Sister Geraldine and Sister Lesley in 1976, Winnipeg’s Rossbrook House has provided a safe haven for tens of thousands of children. "Children are not officially 'homeless,'" writes Sister Lesley. “Otherwise, they'd be taken into custody." But for many of the young people who visit Rossbrook House daily, it’s a “home away from home” that is always welcoming, and most importantly, safe. Open 365 days of the year, Rossbrook house stays open all night, although children under 12 are given a lift home at 9:30 p.m. "If their own home is not a safe place," says Sacouman, "we will drive them to an aunt's or a sister's place—somewhere they feel comfortable."

Rossbrook House is not a conventional shelter: it has no beds and offers no free meals. But the drop-in centre that serves as the heart of Rossbrook House offers a place where youth can meet their needs for socialization, recreation, personal development, and crisis intervention. The informal atmosphere at Rossbrook lends itself to spontaneous games of pool, cards, board games, to sharing a meal and meeting new friends.

In addition to her work at Rossbrook House, Sister Lesley is also on the Board of Directors of The Winnipeg Foundation, Canada’s oldest and second largest community foundation. She serves on the board of Esther House and Anishinaabe Oway-Ishi, an organization that promotes responsibility towards self, family, and community in Aboriginal youth. For 17 years, she taught in both the public and parochial school system and in 1977 founded Eagle’s Circle, an alternative education program for junior high school students. In 1999, Sister Lesley was named a member of the Maclean’s Honour Roll, and in 2002 she received the Caitas Award from the Catholic Foundation of Winnipeg.

Sister Lesley exemplifies the University’s commitment to Winnipeg’s youth. For her dedication, commitment, and perseverance, The University of Winnipeg is proud to confer upon Sister Lesley Sacouman an Honorary Doctor of Divinity.