April 12, 1939 – December 19, 2009
“The most profound mark a person can make as a follower of Jesus is to lead others to Him. I can best do this by teaching and/or directing others in the ministry of teaching.”
Sister Mary Lou Houghton was born on April 12, 1939 in Traverse City, Michigan. She was baptized, made first communion, and was confirmed at Saint Francis Church in Traverse City, which was a stabilizing force in her life of faith. She also drew great satisfaction and strength from her family. Of her parents, Edward and Agnes Weber Houghton she said, “They were kind and taught us well but were our good companions. I have always felt secure in their love and care.” She was blessed with an older brother LeRoy and an older sister Phyllis who loved to indulge her. A younger sister, Kayren, completed the family. Mary Lou took special care of her when their mother was ill for a long period. An early premonition of her life-long eagerness for learning is found in the family story of her first day of kindergarten. She retuned home disgruntled because they had not yet taught her how to read! Thus began the career of a passionate learner and teacher.
After graduating from Saint Francis High School she attended Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City for two years and then received her B. Ed. in 1963 from the University of Toledo. Returning to Traverse City she taught for eleven years at Immaculate Conception and Saint Francis, usually in the junior high grades.
In August of 1976 Mary Lou sought membership in the Dominicans Sisters~Grand Rapids with whom she had been associated as pupil, co-worker, and friend since her early childhood. She made final profession on October 23, 1983.
Sister Mary Lou was very much a school person. She received a Masters in Educational Administration in 1985 from Central Michigan but it was her devotion to the children and their education that made her respected in her field. Her friendly disposition made her well liked, and parents appreciated her competence and concern for their children. She taught at Saint Paul and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Grand Rapids, Saint Joseph, West Branch and Saint Mary, Hannah where she served as principal. In 1988 she went to Saint Mary, Spring Lake as principal and for the last few years was administrative assistant in the school. There she enjoyed twenty years of happiness with a life-giving ministry, companionable Sisters and many friends.
A weekly ritual in Spring Lake was to take a trip after dinner on Sunday. Each week the direction would vary from north to south and then east. The Sisters never went west for if they did, they joked, they would end up in Lake Michigan. Katie, their dear Schnauzer enjoyed the trip too and usually managed to get a few licks of the inevitable treat of ice cream or dessert along the way.
Sister Mary Lou’s favorite hobby was traveling. Before she entered she had spent a year in Germany and Austria and later visited New York state, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The highlight of her travels after her profession as a Dominican was a trip to San Diego, California with Sister Diane Hofman. They managed to see most of the western states. In addition to traveling she loved to read and to cook. And of course, Sister Mary Lou held great affection for her cat Precious Pearl and her dog Katie J. They both brought her much joy and laughter, especially as she was increasingly incapacitated with poor health.
Her last years were difficult with multiple complications from a variety of health challenges. Sister faced them all with grit, determination and a desire to live. Finally, as ill health compromised every aspect of her life and multiple systems began to fail, Sister Mary Lou was able to affirm with the poet these words:
To live in this world
you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems
Sister Mary Lou loved life; she loved her family, friends and community. She enjoyed her work and took delight in the children she taught, the friends she made and her pets. She will be greatly missed and always remembered for loving life, for loving all those whose lives she touched and for knowing it was time to let go when God called her home.
Sister Mary Lou is survived by her brother LeRoy (Nadji) Houghton of Sylvania, Ohio and her two sisters Phyllis (Howard) Bryant of Sun Lakes, Arizona, and Kayren (Jim) Campbell of Williamsburg, Michigan; nieces, nephews, friends and Sisters in her Dominican community.
Entered eternal life on December 19, 2009 at the age of 70 after 32 years of religious life
We commend Sister Mary Lou to your prayers.