While the recent passing of Tracy vom Hagen (née Demmons) deeply saddened the Acadia Divinity College family, we thank God for the life of this remarkable young woman.
Tracy first came to ADC as a student, earning a Master of Arts (Theology) with Distinction in 2004. During her studies at Acadia, she also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education; each unit consisted of 400 hours of instruction or practicum. All the while, she was living with, and rising above, the effects of Neurofibromatosis type 2, a disorder characterized by the growth of noncancerous tumors throughout the nervous system.
Surgery to remove tumors on her brain stem affected Tracy’s hearing, ending her ability to answer her calling as a chaplain. Rather than dwell on her hearing loss, Tracy listened with an open heart and recognized God’s hand at work in her life. She turned towards an academic approach to chaplaincy, studying at the venerable University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where she completed a dissertation on the knowledge of God and people with intellectual disabilities.
As she neared the end of her doctoral program, Tracy accepted an internship with the United Nations Critical Incident and Stress Management Unit in New York conducting training for UN support staff in psychosocial support. She then spent 18 months in Afghanistan as a staff counsellor providing psychological and spiritual support to UN staff working under extreme duress.
Her health finally necessitated a return to Canada.
In February 2011, ADC formally launched the Charles J. Taylor Centre for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care, appointing Dr. Tracy Demmons as its first Director. In three brief years, Tracy, interrupted by several serious operations, worked with ADC to define the mission and vision of the Taylor Centre and re-connected ADC with the chaplaincy world in Canada.
With her vibrant personality and tenacity in teaching and counselling despite her physical limitations, Tracy inspired and touched the lives of students in profound ways. In 2015, she was honoured by the Acadia Divinity College Alumni Association with its Distinguished Service Award – the youngest recipient of this award.
Tracy believed that God works wonders with whatever you give Him. This was certainly demonstrated in her own life. Acadia Divinity College will long remember Tracy’s indomitable spirit, positive outlook on life, and deep faith in a loving God.