Sister Ruth Hennessey, Volunteers, and Partners Recognised at NCC’s Annual General Meeting


The New Canadians Centre honoured partners, volunteers and supporters at their 41st Annual General Meeting this evening with a special nod to a cherished friend.

Executive Director Andy Cragg honoured the life and legacy of Sister Ruth Mary Hennessey (January 5, 1936 – May 14, 2020) by presenting her with the Ruth Hennessey Spirit of Giving Award. Sister Ruth is the first recipient of this award and it will be named after her in honour of her generosity, leadership and commitment to welcoming newcomers and refugees in our community

“Thank you for making your house a home”.

Sister Ruth’s involvement in the work of refugee resettlement began in the 1970s when she and many volunteers in the Peterborough community came together to welcome refugees fleeing the communist regime in Vietnam. This outpouring of generosity was marked by the warmth with which the community provided shelter, opened their homes and welcomed newcomers as they sought to re-build their lives. It heralded the establishment of the New Canadians Centre in 1979. 

Sister Ruth Mary Hennessey
(Photo Credit: Office of Maryam Monsef)

The Sisters of St Joseph supported a transitional house for refugees in Fort Erie, Ontario in the 90s and those families who arrived in Peterborough were cared for by Sister Ruth. It became clear that stable housing was a key factor in supporting the settlement of refugees and this laid the seeds for the establishment of Casa Maria Refugee Homes with Sister Ruth at the helm.  

As a testament to Sister Ruth’s drive and commitment, the congregation supported 3 transitional homes for privately-sponsored refugees over the last 20 years and changed the lives of over 200 people from every continent in the world.  Her enthusiasm was met with the unflagging support of the Sisters and tireless community volunteers who were inspired to meet the mission of Casa Maria. 

She exemplified the notion of welcome. “Mi casa es su casa” – “My house is your house”. If someone expressed a need, Sister Ruth saw that it was met. Be it babysitting, teaching English, finding permanent housing, making connections for employment, she was always there for the people she was helping. Every small gesture spoke volumes for those who arrived in Canada after years in refugee camps with little to look forward to. Even after newcomers left Casa Maria to make their lives in the community, she maintained genuine and enduring relationships with them and their families. 

In the last four years, many private sponsorship groups looked to Sister Ruth for her experience as they sought to support refugees from Syria.  As the lead consultant for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peterborough, the Sponsorship Agreement Holder for private sponsorship of refugees, she was enthusiastic and generous in sharing her knowledge.

Staff, volunteers and supporters at the New Canadians Centre remember Sister Ruth for her generosity, her collaborative nature and her tireless advocacy for newcomers whom we worked together closely to support. We honour her legacy. 

Other awards presented at the meeting:

The Volunteer of the Year award (Peterborough) was presented to Fabiola Contreras Carrasco. Since 2015, she has been facilitating the NCC’s Women’s Group. Through our Living Library program, she has courageously shared her story to help others understand what it is like to leave everything behind to build a better future. In 2020, she was a powerful ally and mentor for newcomer women representing them and the NCC on the organizing committee for International Women’s Day in Peterborough. Meanwhile, at our satellite office in Northumberland, Jane and Alasdair Gillespie were named the Volunteer of the Year for their generous contribution of time in helping newcomers settle and in supporting our events.

The Becky Rogers Community Partner of the Year award (Peterborough) was presented to the Community Dental Health Clinic at Peterborough Public Health which was one of the Resettlement Assistance Program’s first partners when the program began in 2016.  “This is a very proud moment for everyone at Peterborough Public Health to have the kindness and professionalism of our CDHC staff and administrative team recognized with this special award,” said Arti Joshi, Manager of Oral Health Services at Peterborough Public Health.  “Their efforts reflect the important way local public health services help keep New Canadians healthy, and strengthen our community.”

The Dindin Villarino Community Partner of the Year was Rebound Child & Youth Services Northumberland for their support of newcomer youth, children, and families in their programming. 

To review the highlights of the 2019-2020 year for the New Canadians Centre, please have a look at our Annual General Report

Watch the Awards Presentation:

The New Canadians Centre (NCC) is a non-profit organization that has been providing services in the Peterborough community since 1979. The New Canadians Centre strives to empower immigrants and refugees to become full and equal members of Canadian society, and to provide community leadership to ensure cultural integration in a welcoming community. 

For more information about the New Canadians, follow us on Facebook @newcanadianscentre and Twitter @ncc_ptbo #bringpeopletogether.


Media contact: Yvonne Lai, Director, Community Development                    
[email protected]