Marie Cirillo

Marie CirilloMarie Cirillo, a Brooklyn native, left her home at age19 to join the Catholic Order of the Glenmary Home Mission Sisters of America in Ohio. She worked in impoverished and rural areas as a teacher, cook and missionary. Marie was encouraged by the order to attend college in Chicago, where she demonstrated a special interest on rural outmigration and complemented her studies with extensive fieldwork in Appalachia. After 18 years as a nun, Marie left the order to form along with other former Glenmary Sisters theĀ Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS). This new organization would allow the women to continue in Appalachia and live by their commitment to work in the community where they lived. Marie settled in Clearfork Valley where the population had quickly outgrown from 30,000 to 3,000. She became a community developer, encouraging the Clearfork community to organize for social change. In 1977, after understanding that the major problem of Appalachia is the lack of access to land, Marie and the community established the Woodland Community Land Trust, which allows Clearfork Valley residents to have secure and affordable access to land and housing.

Marie has worked tirelessly for 46 years developing programs to facilitate peer learning, leadership support, communication and microenterprise development. She is president of The Clearfork Community Institute, helped establish Rural American Women in Washington, DC, and has been a member of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women for more than two decades.


Marie Cirillo will retire as president of the Clearfork Community Institute on Sep 7th, 2013, the same date when she arrived at Clearfork Valley in 1967. If you would like to send her good wishes and memoirs please send an email to

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