In 2001, having experienced first-hand some ways in which the
life of poverty, Eucharist, and family have taken flesh both in
Toronto and in other parts of the country and the world, Mary
Marrocco received the blessing of Pascal Pingault (founder of
the community Pain de Vie) to begin a new community life.
Accompanied by others who encouraged her in her dream, she
established a charitable organization which began a search for a
generous, beautiful acreage which could become a refuge for
those in need. After three years of intensive search and prayer,
supported by donors both financial and spiritual, the property
was found and purchased in July 2004: 260 acres of woods, trees,
peace and beauty, with the Black River running through it.
Situated about halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, just north of
the Trans-Canada highway, it is meant to be an inn like that to
which the Good Samaritan took his injured friend, a place of
life and work, refuge and healing.
In November 2004, the small house on the property caught fire
due to a natural accident, and burned to the ground in about
40 minutes. Fundraising ensued! As did time spent on the land,
winter and summer. In October 2006, building of a new house
began. In May 2007, the new house was officially opened.
Part of the experience of St. Mary of Egypt is to see the
connection between conservation and recycling, proper eating,
exercise, fresh air, healthy foods, and the environment, and
to see that these things all improve one's personal health and
life quality. Participants really work with the land; they have
planted, weeded, raked and reaped. Our goal is to have a
greenhouse to grow some of our own food and help educate
children and adults about the organic growing of food, and to
learn to keep bees, chickens and other animals. We also plan to
keep our undeveloped land as a sanctuary, where children and
adults can learn about local flora and fauna and the natural
Healing comes through presence with God, one another, nature,
and ourselves. We know we are not the Healer. We know the Healer
is among us.
Time at the Refuge roots us more deeply in the rural community;
helps us create a sense of community among rural youth and
families; brings city people into a rural setting for a greater
appreciation of nature, and how conservation, recycling, proper
food and care for the planet can enhance their own lives and
their contribution to the larger community; creates a sense of
community among urban and rural youth; provides opportunity for
people with physical and mental disability to find a sense of
peace and greater connection with the environment; helps city
youth discover their own spirituality through befriending nature.
The constant response to time spent at the Refuge is, especially
for people coming from the city, that at first they are scared
(of nature, of silence); but people begin to befriend the
natural space around them, and then start to feel enjoyment and
appreciation of what they are mostly denied during their
ordinary lives, and wish they could stay longer. The beauty of
the landscape allows for diverse and needy people to come
together, and find enjoyment in one another. Some deep personal
inner work has begun, and continues for those who become
involved in the community.