About Us

The Abbey Retreat Centre was born out of a vision to support people living with a cancer diagnosis. Through creating healing spaces and community, the Abbey Retreat Centre provides whole person care that is complimentary to medical treatments for people affected by cancer and their primary support person.

Located in the Haliburton Highlands on a beautiful property surrounded by forests and ponds, we provide a variety of in-person and online retreats and programs. The retreats offer rest and renewal, companionship, and an introduction to practices that help soothe, strengthen and restore the body, mind, and soul in the midst of a cancer journey. Time in nature, gentle and restorative yoga, massage, expressive arts, delicious plant-based meals, music, group conversation, and more are all elements of what make our retreats unique and transformative.

Our retreats and programs serve those in the Haliburton Highlands and beyond. We offer these at no cost to participants, recognizing there are already many increased expenses for individuals and families facing cancer. To finance our retreats and programs, we rely on the generosity of donors, fundraisers, and grants.

Land Acknowledgment

We are situated on the Anishinaabe lands covered by Treaty 20 (Click to Read More)

Long before today, there have been Indigenous Peoples who have been the stewards of these lands and waters. Abbey Retreat Centre, on the grounds of Abbey Gardens, respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on the Anishinaabe lands covered by Treaty 20 Michi Saagiig territory and the traditional territory of the Michi Saagiig and Chippewa Nations, collectively known as the Williams Treaties First Nations, which include Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Alderville, Scugog Island, Rama, Beausoleil and Georgina Island.

The Haliburton Highlands, called “Gidaaki” by Anishinaabe, resides within the territory protected by a “Dish with One Spoon” wampum
agreement between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Peoples to share and safeguard this land in the spirit of peace, friendship, and respect. We honour all this represents and are grateful for the opportunity to meet here. We thank the generations of people who have taken care of these lands from time immemorial and deeply appreciate their historic connection to this place and their continued responsibility in ensuring the health and integrity of this place for generations to come.

We also recognize the contributions of Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous Peoples, in shaping and strengthening this province and country. By learning, understanding, and acknowledging, we wish to pay respect to Turtle Island, Mother Earth and to the rich Indigenous presence in Ontario.

Key partnerships

Learn More About our partners:

These partnerships provide a multi-pronged and informed approach for whole person care. The Integrative Cancer Care Clinic at CCNM as well as OICC and WHC are all active day clinics providing evidence-based integrative cancer care for patients. 

The PI`s primary focus is research; evaluating what existing research indicates are most effective interventions to improve quality of life and treatment success, and conducting and publishing research on the programs at CCNM, WHC, and ARC. CCNM is primarily an educational institute training naturopathic doctors.

It is our belief that offering those with cancer, as well as their support person, some time out of the spin of life dealing with cancer, a time to re-centre, to reflect on life, and to learn practices that promote health and well-being for anyone will help them find healing in their life.

Meet Our Team

Director Profiles

Lynda Shephard: Chair

Max Ward: Treasurer

Thea Patterson: Secretary

Thea Patterson, also a Haliburton resident, comes to the Abbey Retreat Centre with a wealth of teaching and curriculum-building experience.  In addition to her experience in Canadian schools, she has extensive international experience developing and presenting management seminars and workshops.  She was an active volunteer internationally implementing literacy, nutrition, and health programs in India and Africa.  She is a member of the Canadian Federation of University Women and a member and volunteer for many local community organizations.

Georgiena Boyle: Director

Joy Davey: Director

Joy Davey is a Haliburton resident and registered psychologist with 18 years of experience owning and facilitating programs at a retreat centre in the Catskill Mountains. In this capacity, she became familiar with all aspects of operating a successful retreat business including the administrative, financial, and operational; marketing and public relations; community development, fund-raising; and the development and facilitation of a program that consisted of a variety of retreat experiences. She brings a wealth of experience in running the business side of a retreat centre, working with people in a healing context, and in training and supervising people who are learning these skills.

Jennifer Ramsdale: Director

My experiences with the Abbey Retreat Centre helped me begin to find my way back to joy and, in turn, I have brought my energy and skills to give back to Abbey Retreat Centre. I have been a participant, a volunteer, a therapist, and now a board member with this amazing organization.

My first profession, as a Massage Therapist, allows me to apply my therapeutic skills with empathy and great care through the lens of whole person care. In 2019, I completed advanced training as a Combined Decongestive Therapist (CDT) for the treatment of lymphedema and cancer care. I enjoy working in the field of health, wellness, and cancer care because it fills my heart to be part of a meaningful therapeutic relationship.

My second career, in education, allows me to use interpersonal skills and learning experience design to work with individuals, groups, and institutions through the lens of student-centered learning. I believe that working with others to support transformational growth and deep connection in a safe environment is at the heart of successful learning.

A recent part of my story has been about facing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery with the support of my family and friends. It is a great adventure and an honour to be part of the Abbey Retreat Centre team; to engage with a purpose that calls to my highest goals and contributes to the highest level of care and community for others. I am excited about the future, and the next part of my story, in a way I haven’t been for a long time

Shelley van Nood: Director

Paul Handley: Director

staff Profiles

Barb Smith-Morrison: co-Director Program

Barb Smith-Morrison is a new Haliburton resident, having moved to the area to be close to family (her husband grew up in West Guilford.) Barb served as a Mennonite pastor for 25+ years in Waterloo County and has been trained in Spiritual Direction, Healing Circles, and Forest Therapy Guiding. Barb brings a passion for creating safe and welcoming spaces and places where people can rest and feel seen and heard while they’re being tended and supported: body, mind and soul.

Maryssa Danilko: Operations Coordinator
Arlene Stiles: Program Coordinator
Rebecca anderson: Administrative assistant

Facilitator Profiles

H. Fay Wilkinson: Registered Expressive Arts practitioner

As the Resident Registered Expressive Arts Practitioner at the Abbey Retreat Centre, it is my privilege to bring my experience to those living with cancer.  I guide people both online and in-person to respond creatively to things that matter through different forms of art-making from scribble drawings and stitch to photography and poetry. The beauty is that these ways to express are accessible to everyone. We often call the work low skill high sensitivity.  I strive to create a non-judgmental environment where people feel safe enough to honestly express what’s on their minds and hearts in playful yet meaningful ways when words alone are difficult.

Laurie Stibbards: Psychotherapist

Laurie Stibbards has been involved in the loving Abbey Retreat Centre community since its inception. For 37 years, Laurie and his family owned a house by the lake in their beloved woods of Algonquin Highlands. For over 50 years, he found deep satisfaction in a psychotherapy practice where he had the privilege of walking with many individuals and couples in their life journey. He believes challenges we face are often doorways to a deeper connection with ourselves. Often, unresolved grief, anger, and pain can block our natural desire to love and be loved.

Miriam Patterson: Registered yoga therapist
Miriam is an IAYT recognized yoga therapist and teacher who offers group and individual yoga classes online from her home base of Toronto. Miriam offers regular group classes (slow flow and chair yoga) via zoom, as well as classes through the Integrative Cancer Center at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.  Miriam is also the Resident Yoga Therapist at the Abbey Retreat Centre in Haliburton, Ontario.  
Miriam studied yoga therapy with Ante and Felica Pavlovic at Yoga Therapy Toronto. She is also inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. You can read more about Miriam on her website at practicewithmiriam.com.
Brian Nichols: Expressive Arts Facilitator

I am a grandfather, retired teacher, and psychotherapist and an artist, gardener, and avid reader.  Community and family are important to me and I love solitude.  Time on Change Islands, Newfoundland and silent meditation retreats are where I go to recharge.

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