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Susan Sheen 1965

Susan Sheen’s life thus far is like a beautiful piece of patterned fabric in which the same silver strand keeps appearing and creating different patterns. There is an amazing alignment of Susan’s beliefs and the outworking of those beliefs in her own professional life and in the community. Her education at Havergal, (where she says she “was equipped for life”), as well as academic achievement combined with her strong focus on family and her involvement in the Guiding movement have all furnished her with a firm foundation for making a difference in the world.

Susan spent 14 significant years at Havergal College – a deeply formative length of time. Those years shaped her in ways that have been manifest in her life ever since. This connection between belief and action – that silver thread – can be seen in Susan’s work within the community; it is a connection that echoes Ellen Knox’s famous question “What will you do?”

Embedded in this question is another: “Who will you be?” Susan’s strong belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to realize his or her God-given potential answers that question in a very profound way. To achieve the realization of all that God created us to be was the foundation of her education at Havergal, where the environment was and is conducive to students discovering their strengths and then working to live into them.

As a teacher, Susan’s professional life was aligned with her concern for the education and welfare of children. She taught for 15 years, passing on what had been given to her, before seeking ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada. Susan was among the first generation of women to be ordained and, as such, became a leader for others seeking the same path. She served parishes in Bowmanville, Coboconk, Cavan and Oshawa with a particular focus on lay spiritual education. She has been described as a “born teacher” and was highly regarded as a supervisor for new priests. Susan was made a canon of the church in 1998, in recognition of her service.

The Girl Guides of Canada have always been an important part of Susan’s life; it is the original girlfocused organization. Over the last century, hundreds of thousands of girls have been touched by Guiding. Like Susan, they have had the chance to learn new skills, develop lasting friendships, build their confidence and leadership abilities and learn about the world around them, all within a supportive, safe environment. Susan continues to volunteer with the Girl Guides today.

Through her work with the Girl Guides, there was a natural association with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Susan became involved and has volunteered for the organization since 1995. The award program encourages youth to be active, to participate in new activities and offers the opportunity to set goals and achieve results, thereby exploring the contours of their abilities and potential in fun and challenging ways.

Susan’s concern for the welfare of children led to her involvement with Moorelands Camp for children and youth affected by poverty. This is a camp that aims to provide children with positive and fun experiences to help strengthen their confidence, competence and character.

Her work with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCA W) is very close to her heart. Sadly, there are many children in the world who do not have a comfortable place to sleep. Sleep is so fundamental to a child’s well-being that volunteers from SCA W – such as Susan – travel to many underdeveloped and developing countries to deliver bed kits and anti-malaria nets to children of any race or religion who will benefit the most. Susan has actively participated in distribution trips to India and Bangladesh and is planning more.

Susan’s many interests and activities, all focused on improving the welfare of children and on providing them with opportunities to become who they were created to be, speak to a broader vision encompassing a bigger world than her own. Her work radiates outward from her own personal interests, to those of her city and region and, finally, the world.

Although Susan is unfailingly modest, it is clear how she has made a difference in our world. Indeed, hundreds of children have benefited either directly or indirectly from her care and dedication. This is the silver thread that runs through the fabric of her life.

Conscientious, caring and compassionate are words used over and over again by Susan’s classmates and colleagues to describe her and the impact which she’s had on their lives over the years. HOGA ’s highest honour recognizes her for her outstanding dedication and accomplishment in her work and in her communities.

Written by The Reverend Susan Bell