The YWCA has honoured Sr. Lucinda Patterson with its lifetime achievement award for 2014.


The YWCA has honoured Sr. Lucinda Patterson with its lifetime achievement award for 2014.

January 12, 2015

Domestic violence happens in one out of three homes. This statistic comes from someone who deals with this tragedy – hidden by closed doors and threats.

Sister Lucinda Patterson, CEO of Lurana Shelter for 17 years, has seen the damage first hand, and she and her staff work to heal the shattered lives of women and children, and to prepare them to live independently.

Her work at Lurana has overseen personal support for adults and children alike. They also have specialized workers who value the children and listen, she says.

"There is amazing healing that can happen to that child. You impress upon them it is not their fault, not their mom's fault. You have to be a voice for those who have no voice."

The shelter operates various psychological and practical healing programs, including those that "bring them closer to God."

The sisters also operate a Creative Learning Centre and Innovative Education Center "to strengthen a child's assets – get those little grey cells churning."

These children, says Patterson, are the ones who are not safe at school: For example, they might be at risk of abduction by the other parent.

The value of the healing that she has done for families in the community was recently honoured publicly.

The YWCA board of directors were unanimous in selecting Patterson as its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner.

They honoured her, they said, for her life's work and advocacy against domestic violence.

"They were afraid I would not accept it," says Patterson in an interview with the WCR. "I feel so humbled."

But she did indeed agree to receive the silver statue for her 17 years with the shelter.

So what drew this energetic woman to follow the religious path?

Yes, she had thought about it, but went to university instead and became a social studies teacher for 10 years.

Her dream had always been to have 10 children. She surrounded herself not only with her school students but also became a Girl Guide leader.

Health problems hit and she had to have major surgery on both feet. She remembered having a self-described "pity party" with all the pain.

Then one night she had a dream. During the dream, she saw Jesus' feet with the nails through them on the crucifix. She heard Jesus ask her, "What are you going to do for my people?"

On waking, she came to the realization she did indeed have children – all of her students and Girl Guides and the impact she had on their lives.

So she obeyed Jesus' call and, after searching through the missions of various communities, entered the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement in 1989.

Although not CEO at Lurana anymore, she is still involved in many aspects of the shelter and has seen women and children flourish after they have been "planted with the seed" of healing.

Asked for one special memory in her time at the shelter, Patterson is quiet for a moment and then breaks into a beautiful smile. A young girl sought shelter at the home and had gone through some of the programs.

She was expecting a baby and asked Patterson if she would be with her when the baby was born.


Patterson agreed. She held the young girl's hand when her baby boy let out his first cry.

"He was born healthy," says a beaming Patterson.

It was only after the birth that the young mother told Patterson that she had been kicked in the stomach before coming to the home.

"She sends me pictures and letters and lets me know how well the baby is doing," says the beaming sister. "I have had so many graces."

She went to the priests' assembly to tell the priests that they can never know the impact of a smile or hello from them to a child or adult. "It lets them know they are valuable as a person."


Not all stories have happy endings. One woman who came to the shelter took part in all the programs and seemed to be ready to live independently when she left the shelter.

It was New Year's Eve and Patterson was on duty while the staff went to a party. No phone calls. No emergencies. Patterson was relieved.

But the next day a phone call came from the homicide detectives. The woman who shelter staff thought had succeeded in rebuffing abuse had been murdered by the man she had run away from. For whatever reason, after leaving the safety of the shelter, she had gone back to him and he murdered her on New Year's Eve.

Patterson's face clouds. "It's haunted me quite a lot about why she did not call, even to just ask for support."