Sister Mary Charles (Mary Helen) McGough, OSB, 82, of St. Scholastica Monastery, died on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, at the Monastery. She entered the Duluth Benedictines on Sept. 8, 1943, and made her first monastic profession on Jan. 6, 1946. On Aug. 15, 1970, Sister Mary Charles celebrated her Silver Jubilee and in 1995 her Golden Jubilee. She was in her 61st year of monastic profession.
Sister Mary Charles (Molly) was born to Justin Hugh McGough and Ruth (Brownell) on April 18, 1925, in Cloquet. She received her high school education at Duluth Cathedral High School. She received a Bachelor of Arts from The College St. Scholastica, a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota, and a Masters of Fine Arts from Notre Dame University.
Sister Mary Charles began her teaching career in 1949 as a second grade teacher at St. Bridget's School, Minneapolis. The following year she taught Art and Religion at Stanbrook Hall, Duluth. She taught in the Elementary Education Program at The College St. Scholastica (1951-1954) and then grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 at St. Anthony's School in Duluth (1954 to 1959). From 1959 to 1967 she headed the Art Department of The College St. Scholastica.
During the summers, Sister Mary Charles taught catechism classes at several sites, including Cass Lake and the Nett Lake Reservation.
She was well known for beginning the summer 'Barn Program' in 1968 when the carriage house on the McCabe property became an art studio. There she taught children various creative activities: writing, science, dance, song, musical instruments, and art. This program continued for 18 years. The Barn became Sister's home for many years and was a place where visitors were always greeted by the resident dog.
Sister Mary Charles loved animals, and there was always a dog and a cat to keep her company. Sister Mary Charles was gifted in many art mediums: wood cuts, wood carvings, ceramics, sculptures, and watercolors, to name a few. She also designed the cover of the Sisters Today magazine for more than 30 years.
Her works can be found today throughout the world-in people's homes, in houses of worship, and even outdoors. She was not afraid to commit to huge projects such as the wall at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center in Duluth, the logo on the outside of St. Mary's Medical Center, the Peace Doors at The College of St. Scholastica, and a wall sculpture at the Benedictine Health Center in Duluth.
Sister was commissioned to do many creative or artistic projects for various organizations and for churches of many religious denominations. Indeed, her work was quite ecumenical as she established relationships with and provided art for Temple Israel and for Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches, to name a few.
Sister Mary Charles began studies in iconography in 1990. Her subsequent work with icons was commissioned by individuals and parishes nationwide. Her commissioned pieces included 'Mother of Compassion' at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 'Our Lady of Glastonbury' at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts, and 'St. Bernard of Clairvaux,' at the church named for him in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sister Mary Charles was especially honored to have created 'Our Lady of Compassion' icon for the Diocesan AIDS Ministry Office in Worchester, Massachusetts, where each AIDS patient receives a copy of that image.
As Sister Mary Charles' need for larger studio space grew, she created Subiaco Studio, located in the old St. Anthony School. Sister Mary Charles had a passion for people as well as art. That was evident during her teaching and throughout the years of children's summer programs at the Barn.
Sister said her greatest joy was teaching, or as she would say, 'in helping others discover the creative spark within themselves.' She always made sure there would be sufficient scholarships to provide for young people who wanted to attend but could not afford the fee.
Sister's Irish wit and humor were evident in her relationships with others and during the many watercolor and iconography workshops she taught. She instilled in others a sense of the power of art: 'I know that art has the power to teach, to heal, to comfort, to challenge, to entertain, and to help people pray,' she said.
Sister Mary Charles was a long-time member of Pax Christi, an international peace organization, and could always be counted on to be a part of a peace rally or to write a letter to the editor when she saw some injustice that needed attention. She was dedicated to the work of the Damiano Center, to the Loaves and Fishes Community, to CHUM, and to any other organization that cared for poor or marginalized people. She was more than generous with her time and talent to support the just treatment of all people.