Community Mourns Passing of Addictions Pioneer

By Katherine Godding, Chair of the Board of Directors, Serenity Renewal for Families

I am writing today thinking of how grateful I am to have met Sister Louise Dunn, co-founder of Serenity Renewal for Families. She believed addiction affected the entire family and started a local non-profit to support all family members impacted. She assisted thousands. She passed away December 27, 2018. This is part of my story.

I first met Sister Louise over thirty-three years ago. I was a very young woman who had a secret: my mother was an alcoholic/addict, and I was also struggling with the condition. Somehow, I really thought that I could be different from my family and that I could will away this curse. I was looking for a magic pill, solution, treatment, anything to take away the pain, stress and grief of living with an active addict. Thirty-three years ago, there were not a lot of options for help or understanding for people with addictions and their families.

My first encounter with Sister Louise Dunn was as my aftercare counsellor. She was just starting Serenity Renewal for Families. What struck me about her was that she “saw me”, she really saw me! She helped me realize that the only person I could change was me. At her funeral and wake, I heard this phrase over and over. I thought I was special but that was a gift she gave to everyone she encountered.

At the wake and funeral, many repeated how their lives took a positive turn because of Serenity Renewal for Families. Those who have had the privilege of working with her or attending workshops or counselling know the value her creation, Serenity Renewal for Families, has had on our community.

Living in a family where one or more members are addicted is chaotic. You don’t flourish in these families, you survive in them. You live in uncertainty, you lose your ability to trust and you develop relationships based on a victim or predator mentality. You isolate yourself. You feel hopeless.

Today, we are not without hope. Sister Louise Dunn, in her wisdom, knew that addiction affected all family members, in so many ways, and that recovery needed to address more than just the substance use itself. She taught that even when the problem drinking or using stopped, the real work began to heal the person and family. Over my three decade association with Serenity Renewal and Sister Louise, I have attended many beneficial workshops on such topics as self-esteem, anger and resentment, healthy boundaries and couples communication.

I have learned that recovery is a lifelong journey. Fortunately, the journey need not be undertaken alone, as long as Serenity Renewal for Families is in our community. There can be no guarantees, but there are many productive and healthy people active in Ottawa today who owe much of their recovery to the help they received at Serenity Renewal for Families, myself included.

Serenity Renewal for Families will continue Sister Louise’s incredible legacy, providing hope and the opportunity for positive change to families in our region devastated by addiction and often with nowhere to turn. In closing, allow me to thank the community at large for the generous support it has provided to our charity in the past and to ask that you keep Sister Louise in your thoughts and prayers.

Katherine Godding is Chair of the Board of Directors for Serenity Renewal for Families, an Alta Vista Charity that assists individuals and families affected by addiction and other impactful issues. For more information or to donate to families needing assistance, call 613-523-5143 or visit