Marygrace McCullough-Hommen

Monday, August 31, 2015 5:18 pm

Marygrace McCullough-Hommen, 75, died at the Aase Haugen Nursing Home in Decorah, in the company of family members, Aug. 26, 2015, after a long, hope-filled and valiant struggle with cancer. Funeral services are Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m., at First Lutheran Church in Decorah. Prelude music begins at 1:40 p.m. There is no visitation.

Marygrace was born in Boston, Mass. May 5, 1940, to John James McCullough and Marie Olivia (Kean). She entered first grade at Marycliff Academy, Winchester, a private school run by the French-based Religious of Christian Education Sisterhood and continued there through the 12th grade. Proud as she was of this excellent education, she noted how, in the later years at Marycliff, students were required one day each week to speak French throughout the day.

Among her fondest childhood memories was vacationing for several weeks each summer with her family on an island off the coast of Maine (Islesboro), her father joining the family for weekends with fresh lobster purchased for fifty cents each, before boarding the ferry.

Graduating from Marycliff in 1958, that same summer Marygrace entered the novitiate of the RCE in Milton. Upon completion, she entered Newton College of the Sacred Heart, where she was assigned to major in psychology and continued studying voice. Following college graduation she was assigned to teach at St. James parochial school, Arlington, taught seventh grade and guided numerous students to win many prizes in archdiocesan art shows. She assumed concurrently an additional “full time” position as director of St. James religious education (grades one through eight) for Catholic students attending public schools.

In the late ‘60s she was sent to Boston College, where she was the first person to be granted an M. Ed. In a blended theology-education program. In 1969 she began a 12-year stint as co-director (with Sr. nancy Schwoyer) of the St. Ann’s Parish (Peabody) comprehensive educational program, covering a spectrum of age groups, writing their own curricula. She also developed an intenstive marriage preparation course for engaged couples, which later became the basis for her doctoral dissertation. These initiatives were so innovative that they were written up in The Pilot, the official paper of the Boston Archdiocese, as models from which other parishes could learn. She also was elected the first woman of the Peabody Clergy Association.
In the 1970s Marygrace obtained a Master of Divinity degree and, in 1981, a Doctor of Divinity in pastoral counseling, at Boston University. These academic/clinical milestones served to launch her into a new career as a certified psychotherapist and clinical member of the National Asociation of Marriage and Family Therapists. After several years of difficult discernment about her vocation, Marygrace left her religious order in 1981.

In 1979 Marygrace and five others founded Wellspring House, Inc., housed in a large personal residence built in 1649, in which they shared a home together with persons buffeted by adverse life events and rendered homeless. Her brother, John, did all the legal work to make Wellspring House a legal reality. Over the past 24 years, Wellspring has thrived and expanded to include a range of services, primarily educational, such that many former “guests” have achieved college and post-graduate degrees and moved into diverse vocations and service professions.

For several years Marygrace provided psychological and vocational testing for the Ecumenical Counseling Service. In 1980 she joined the staff of the Interfaith Counseling Service (Newton) as a staff psychotherapist and a marital and family therapist. From 1990 to 2000 she was the administrative and clinical director of this agency.
In 1984 Marygrace and Donovan Hommen were united in marriage, and the couple have enjoyed 31 years of their marital journey amidst numerous prized and cherished relationships that were filled with deep and joyous satisfaction. She was “adopted” by marriage to become a beloved additional mother to two of Don’s children from a previous marriage: Alicia Marie and Charles Weston, both whom she loved with unreserved affection.

Marygrace and Don retired from their Boston-based careers in 2000 and moved to Decorah in Northeast Iowa, the home of Luther College, Don’s college alma mater and also the residence of Don’s sister, Yvonne, and her husband, William Kuhlman, with whom they have shared a truly special, affectionate bond over the last 15 years. Since moving to Decorah Marygrace has experienced immense satisfaction from her participation in an array of social networks which have tapped into her capacities for imaginative leadership and service. While remaining a Roman Catholic she joined Don in attending First Lutheran Church, receiving immensely from this beloved community and giving of herself in return. She has been a member of the Northern Lights Women’s Chorus, and served as its president for two years. She was a loyal and active member of the Luther College Woman’s Club and served as its president for two years, leading initiatives to provide on-going support for Luther students. For years she was a member of the Foster Care Review Board, and she spawned with others “Soup’s On,” under the auspices of the Luther College Diversity Center, a monthly gathering for students from numerous countries to help them to get to know each other amidst food and conversation and to celebrate the pleasures of being “many, yet one.”

Through her life Marygrace has had numerous life-giving relationships, all having the common thread enriching resonance engendered by loving joy within community. She cherished these relationships and sensed all of them as mirrors of an infinite love, which made them sacred to her.

Marygrace is survived by her grateful husband, Donovan; two beloved siblings, John (Kathleen), of Boston and Regina, of Punta Gorda, Fla. and her children, Nathan and Danica; daughter, Alicia (Steven) and children Emma, Nathaniel and Elias; son, Charles (Mary) and their children, Jeromy (Rebecca) and children Linnea and Britta, Ethan (Rachell) and their children McKenzie and Lille; Gracia, and Charles Jr.; her best friend of 47 years, Nancy Schwoyer, who resides with her partner, Rosemary Haughton, in England; and two cousins, Christine Hackett of Seattle, Wash. and Grace DuFour (and her husband, Gerald), of Haverhill, Mass.

Marygrace passed away with a serene sense of peace, fully accepting of her journey’s end within the embrace of an eternal loving heart.

Memorial gifts may be given to the following: 1) The Northern Lights Women’s Chorus, c/o Jane Kolarich, 2272 Madison Road, Decorah, IA 52101; 2) Wellspring House, 302 Essex Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930.

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