The good life: Meet Marge Denis


Every month, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].

At 84 years old, Marge Denis is a breath of fresh air.

Her open-mindedness and willingness to converse on topics you would typically think are off limits to a former nun are just two of her admirable qualities. The highly creative, passionate, extroverted Marge is a combination of religious and spiritual and it has taken her a long time to be able to differentiate between the two. She’s as sweet as she is sharp and she’s honest and upfront and has the wisdom and worldly knowledge that can only be acquired by someone who’s lived a full life and seen it all. She’s worked on every continent in the world except for Africa. Marge has fallen in love (many times), made mistakes and learned from them, and is careful about who she hangs out with.

“I like to be around people who are constantly searching,” she says. “I’m nervous about those people who say, ‘I’ve got it made and here it is.’ That means there’s no room for growth.”

The good Marge has done in a lifetime of serving others is simply a reflection of who she is at a soul level. She was a sister of service with a religious order for 27 years – something she calls a very sacred journey. When she retired as a nun, she explored a new avenue that had her helping people and groups in a completely different way.

And even today, despite not being as mobile as she wishes she was, she volunteers to do attendance once a week at Muskoka Seniors. She’s part of a “very nebulous spirituality committee”, an informal group of like-minded members who view spirituality as something you can’t see but rather you hold.

Marge Denis didn't lead a typical life. She was a sister of service for 27 years before she started a new business venture that had her helping people and groups in a totally different way.

Marge Denis didn’t lead a typical life. She was a sister of service for 27 years before she started a new business venture that had her helping people and groups in a totally different way.

Hospice Huntsville is near and dear to her heart. Many years ago, Marge used to visit those who were terminally ill and help train hospice volunteers and was heavily involved in the grief support program. She has recently agreed to write the history of Hospice Huntsville in hope of preserving the idea and story of how the valuable organization came to be.

“Hospice is like an iceberg,” she says. “Most of it’s hidden. The tip of it gets all the attention, but it’s what’s underneath that’s the solid foundation.”

If you ask Marge why she has devoted her life to such a selfless path, she will tell you it’s a mystery.

She grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and it was during a trip to Canada with her mother that Marge met a sister and was immediately “enthralled by her energy.” She was 19 when she came to Canada to join the Catholic sisters. It was the best thing that happened to her because she never went back to Detroit. (She officially became a Canadian citizen in 1968 and to this day she values her status as a Canadian.)

I believe only until a person is in touch with themselves are they truly able to serve other people. If you’re not in touch with yourself, you might end up doing it for glory. It’s only when I really came in touch with who I was and what my life was about that I was able to be in touch with other people. If I didn’t, I’d have something that wasn’t me to give them.

Just as she had felt “called in” to become a sister, she felt “called out.” Marge went on to attend graduate school at the University of Toronto obtained a doctorate in adult education. It was a natural evolution, she says. Working with adults was truly her passion. Over the next 30 years, she worked mainly in the nonprofit sector helping religious congregations and groups establish organizational development.

“I have a knack of being able to read where a person or group is and enable them to go from where they are to where they want to be. I developed a process I called ‘process facilitation.’ I believe every person has their own life process, every organization has its own life process and sometimes it’s called to change that life process radically. There were no set goals. I enabled them to discover their own process, and then make decisions according to that. The happy thing was I never had to advertise for all those years I did it.”

Because her job required her to travel the world, Marge never really had time to plant any roots. She had never owned property and her heart longed to live in the quiet of the country. She bought a small lot on Clark Lake near Huntsville and built her dream home. The tranquility and peace of her new surroundings allowed her to keep doing what she loved. Marge held workshops and training sessions in process facilitation from her home. She named her property Still Point and lived in solitude for 18 years until she became “somewhat lame” after knee replacement surgery. She sold her home and moved into Chartwell Muskoka Traditions. But to this day her heart aches for Still Point.

“The creative dance doesn’t happen when there’s loud noise,” she says.

She says her open-mindedness has landed her a label of being wishy-washy. She’s been called crazy for being highly creative too. That’s not her problem. Marge is comfortable enough with who she is to not care what others think.

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  1. Marg Winchester on

    Amazing Lady! Thanks for your generosity to Hospice and the folks of our community. I have never seen you without a contagious smile and that goes a long while. L&L

  2. Kristi MacDonald on

    Huntsville is lucky to have Marge as one of its residents. I look forward to the story of hospice that she is writing! She opened her home and heart to residential hospice and is one of the building’s cornerstones to completion.

  3. Fran Coleman on

    Marge is caring and beautiful inside and out. Hospice has benefit by all her energy and a shining glow she brings to a room for those needing comfort.

  4. The world is a much better place thanks to this incredible woman. Thank you Marge. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

    • What a pleasure it is to know you Marge. Your kind and sweet spirit can light up a room and inspire others. So thankful for your many Hospice contributions!

  5. Marge is one of those rare personalities you might meet once in a lifetime. Compassionate and wise are but only two of a long list of superlatives that describe Marge. With that incredibly infectious smile she lights up any room she enters. She is a truly beautiful human being in every sense of the word. We are lucky to have you in our midst.

  6. Martha Watson on

    I love playing with this joyous and mischievous woman! May we grow old together and never grow UP together! You are a true inspiration, Marge Denis!

  7. Marge is my mentor, teacher and colleague. We still meet and talk every few weeks – I live in the Algonquin Highlands. Her unique life and contribution to the world is a great gift…so glad you highlighted it here.

  8. Paula Smith rsm on

    Marge I was delighted to read your story today. Your photo radiated the life and energy I know you to possess. I remember my trip to Huntsville quite nostalgically and your leadership of our gatherings so dynamically here in Australia. Loving greetings

  9. Rita Patenaude on

    Thank you Laura for your writing. You have presented the Marge I have known for 65 years and you have shown her passion, liveliness, deep spirit and immense generosity. Her work over the years with individuals and groups has been transformative and continues to be fruitful through the lives and work of those she has taught, trained mentored and befriended. We continue to journey together as “sisters”with a long herstory and i pray that we may continue to laugh and cry together, plot and plan together and vision a future that is just and hopeful for all. Rita Patenaude

  10. Marge I often go back to my learnings as I spent time with you in Australia and Huntsville.
    THANK YOU is the prayer deep in my heart. THANK YOU for affirming the creativity within me.

    I know you will take joy and peace to your new surroundings. Joan

  11. I searched the internet for word about Marge Denis and found this beautiful article about an exceptional woman. I learned process facilitation with Marge some decades back at Still Point in Huntsville. She is a gifted teacher who caused each of us to go as deeply into ourselves as we could, to increase our ability to be of service in the world. I am grateful to Marge, a beautiful spirit. I find it hard to believe she needed to leave Still Pointe. One of my favorite images is looking up at Marge’s bedroom window from down at the boathouse on a cold winter’s night…and seeing her propped up in her bed, reading, relaxing, and needing only to glance out of her window to see the lake and all of the beauty she surrounded herself with. I also remember the wonderful wall hanging that was in fact her PhD thesis…a weaving about intuition…right next to her grade 4 report card and her PhD degree. The report card showed she wasn’t doing so well according to academic testing in grade four…clearly not testing her exceptional gifts.

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