Cape Breton University is honoured to celebrate the life and contributions of Margaret T. Gillis, S.C., a selfless, compassionate and respected member of our community, who has made it her life’s work to help others and to do so not expecting anything in return.
Sister Gillis, a member of the congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, was born and raised in a mining family in New Waterford, NS. She holds a Master of Environmental Studies degree with a concentration in community based planning and development from York University, as well as a Bachelor of Education degree and a Bachelor of Arts Canadian Studies degree from Mount Saint Vincent University. In addition, she took courses toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Cape Breton University.
Serving her community is something Sister Gillis has been doing for more than 30 years. Currently, she is the executive director of the Carmel Centre, a multi-usage community facility in New Waterford, as well as a senior staff member with New Dawn Enterprises. Previously, she worked with Co-op Atlantic as member relations coordinator with Modern Co-op Ltd., as a cadet chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces, a team member with Project North Pastoral Team of the Antigonish Roman Catholic Diocese and as the director of religious education with St. Michael’s Church in Halifax, NS.
Although her working history is impressive, it is her demeanour and the way in which she carries out her work that make her such a remarkable individual. She is passionate for the community and in particular her hometown of New Waterford and that shines through in all that she does. It has been said that her philosophy is that one’s life is best spent trying to make this world a better place. She certainly follows that philosophy and has helped countless individuals throughout the years from Edmonton, Alberta to Northern Cape Breton communities and locations in between.
People describe Sister Gillis as a very special and unique person, who has a love for people and who works tirelessly on their behalf. She was instrumental in the formation of the New Waterford Economic Renewal Association (NewERA), she has worked with youth of the area with the Antigonish Diocesan Challenge Movement, she is a member of the Seton Foundation Board of Directors, she works with the local area St. Vincent de Paul Societies and leads a local group of Associates of the Sisters of Charity in exploring new expressions of spirituality.
All of Sister Gillis’s efforts have left her with a keen knowledge of the human condition. It is this broad experience that makes her such a well respected and esteemed member of the community. Her wisdom and counsel are in constant demand and she always finds time to respond.
A quote from a letter of support for Sister Gillis conveys vividly how she is viewed by those around her, “Margie Gillis’ most prominent characteristic is her humility. When you’re in her presence there is a sense that you are encountering someone special. She listens patiently and intently and helps one to reflect on their own feelings and convictions; rarely does she tell you what she thinks, but rather leaves one unburdened, somehow assured to follow one’s own instincts.”
Cape Breton University conferred the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on a woman who has a passion for her community, shares her insight and wisdom with others and is an admired and cherished mentor, Margaret T. Gillis, S.C.