Initially I must apologize for not responding to the change of name at the Sister Kennedy Centre in the Dec. 20th edition of the Fort Frances Times.
I must thank both Nora Paulenko and Margaret Rousseau for providing the impetus to get me to put pen to paper.
I was involved right from the beginning of the project as Sister Kennedy and some other seniors asked me if I would spearhead the fundraising effort to get a seniors' drop-in centre constructed.
This was indeed an honour and something I did not have to deliberate on for long. We, as Northern Affairs officers, were encouraged to get involved in the communities in which we served, so it was a perfect fit.
During our campaign, the town donated the piece of property to us where the building now sits and our fundraising effort locally turned into a huge success. We had to raise an equal amount to qualify for government funding and we went way beyond thanks to the generosity of businesses, groups and organizations, and individuals.
It was a huge success and resulted in the initial structure happening, with a later addition where the pool tables are.
At the grand opening of the facility, the board of the day made the decision to honour the person responsible for getting things going by naming it after her. The honour was to the individual who happened with title to be Sister Betty Kennedy.
The fact that she was a Sister did not make the facility a Catholic one, though there were a few people upset at the time who wanted it named Pleasant Pastimes Place.
Contrary to the Dec. 13 article in the Times, many people use the place on a regular basis and do not feel it is only for Catholics. In fact, if you asked users what religious affiliation they had, you likely would find it was all denominations and not just Catholics.
I want to thank Mayor Roy Avis and Couns. Ken Perry and John Albanese for voting against the motion to change the name and, of course, chastise Couns. Paul Ryan, Wendy Brunetta, Doug Kitowski, and especially June Caul.
June was not at any of our meetings way back when and now she is using hearsay and comments from some individuals when making statements like, “It has been the history in town that this centre is a Catholic centre and that no one else is supposed to go there except Roman Catholic citizens, and that's still the same way today," and the next one, "People do not know that it is for everybody.”
These people would be in a minority. The place is, and has always been, an open, inclusive facility to anybody over age 55.
Coun. Caul also stated that Sister Kennedy never wanted any official recognition for her role when, in fact, she expressed to me that it was a great honour to be recognized, although like anybody receiving recognition or accolades always says, “Oh, please not for me. I am not worthy or I am not seeking any recognition.”
For June to throw that out as part of the justification was just plain wrong.
This was obviously a quick decision and to add insult to injury, the newspaper said it was done with public input. Yet there was nothing in the newspaper seeking comment on this change nor was there a public meeting about it.
If the majority of residents were in favour of a name change, and were given all the facts beforehand, then it should happen. This was certainly not the case.
I, for one, am very upset about this and, by the way, I am not a Catholic.
Thanks you for allowing me this space in the newspaper.
David M. Bourgeault
Fort Frances, Ont.