My sister Mary Anne MacKinnon, who lives in Hope House, is the oldest of four siblings. Growing up in Lower South River, Antigonish County, with roots in Inverness and Margaree, Cape Breton, Mary Anne has always been extremely faithful to and proud of her family and loved the good company and storytelling of family gatherings. When her younger siblings moved away from home, buying houses and renting apartments of their own, Mary Anne felt keen, the lessening of activity at home, and realized her desire for a space of her own. So, in 1998, instead of asking for money and treats for birthday and Christmas gifts, Mary Anne began requesting practical things like towels, face cloths, plastic food-storage containers, placemats, cutlery, and dishes.
None of us knew how Mary Anne’s hopes for her own place would unfold, but she continued to collect, paying close attention to the various items around the home that she would need for her own apartment. In 1999, I began meeting with Gus and Debbie Leuschner of L’Arche Antigonish about creating a relationship with the community so Mary Anne would have more social connections.
As it turned out, L’Arche Antigonish was building a new home on Malcolm Court and was willing to welcome Mary Anne to its basement apartment and support her there. What followed was a year of “back-and-forth” conversations. The Leuschners and I would meet at St. Theresa’s Garden on the Sisters of St. Martha property, drinking tea, eating oatcakes, and imaging possibilities for Mary Anne. I would tell them about Mary Anne’s hopes, then they would meet with Community Services representatives who would explain what was practical and possible.
L’Arche would update me with our progress, and I would tell Mary Anne, who shared her dearest hopes, like having a kitchen of her own. I would relay this to the Leuschners, who in turn would bring our ideas to Community Services.
On September 4, 2000, Mary Anne moved into The Mustard Seed, the apartment at a new Emmaus House. She had everything she wanted in her new home, not only a kitchen but her own laundry room as well! A few years later, she moved into Emmaus House to join in community life even more deeply, and in 2015 she moved to Hope House on Hawthorne Street.
Sharing the journey to L’Arche with Mary Anne was an incredible joy because L’Arche has offered Mary Anne a chance for independence, as well as a host of activities and friends, as well as a new L’Arche family, in which Mary Anne continues to share her great love of storytelling, laughter, and community.