Sister Margaret (Margaret Mary) Hoffman (1927-2021) – 75-Year Jubilarian

Heart and soul — an artist! Sister Margaret designed the beautiful, very real-looking Madonna and Child on the bell tower of Cunningham Memorial Chapel at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, and she collaborated with artist Gabriel Loire, in designing the sculptured-glass chapel windows. To remember Sister Margaret Hoffman is to see her as a gifted artist and a well-loved teacher, a woman of great empathy, a faithful friend, and an indefatigable champion for issues of peace and justice. She struggled to learn computer programs even in her 80’s so she could both keep up with issues across the country and around the world, inform others, and contribute reflective insights about them. She could also laugh at herself, and often did, making others laugh with her.

Sister Margaret served as Chair of the Art Department at College of Notre Dame for twenty years. She also inspired and influenced many future teachers while giving art classes to young Sisters at the Saratoga Novitiate. She touched the lives of students at Emmanuel College in Boston, where she was assigned for a year, then taught art for twelve years at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, still making time to do art therapy in convalescent homes for the elderly and mentally ill who had little access to the arts.

Sister Margaret creating tribute artwork for martyred Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN.

Sister Margaret then served for five years at the Sisters’ Mission Education Center in Washington D.C., researching issues and communicating on behalf of Notre Dame Sisters around the world. After returning to California, Sister Margaret became the Communications Director for the California Province, publishing a newsletter and expanding community awareness of justice and peace issues. Sisters and visitors to the Notre Dame Province Center in Belmont will continue to see in the entryway to the Province Center her more recent artwork which combines quotes from the Beatitudes with ones from Sister Dorothy Stang, who was assassinated in the Amazon Rainforest.

The Sisters are grateful to healthcare coordinators Ann Comer and Sister Sharon Joyer, SNDdeN, and to Mercy Retirement & Care Center in Oakland, where Margaret received excellent care the past several months before she died peacefully on March 29, 2021. She will be deeply missed by her many friends, former colleagues and students, by her brother, James Hoffman, his wife, Jan, their children Karl, in San Francisco, and Kevin, Jeremy, and Jill in Pennsylvania, by other family in Alabama, and by all her Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Another brother, Ray Hoffman and her sister, Patricia Hoffman, SNDdeN predeceased her.

Mass was celebrated for Sister Margaret on Tuesday, April 20,  in the Cunningham Memorial Chapel on the Notre Dame de Namur University Campus. You may click here to watch a video of the funeral.

We will following the Covid-19 health precautions of wearing masks, social distancing and contact tracing. Attendees should allow extra time before the liturgy.

A video recording of the funeral will later be posted on the Sisters' SNDdeN West YouTube channel.

If you would like to make a memorial gift to the Sisters in Sister Margaret's name, please click here.

Sister Margaret's 70th Jubilee Profile (2016)

Margaret always knew she wanted to be a Sister. After all, by age 10 she had a personal altar in her closet featuring a large poster of the "Agony in the Garden" that she won in an art competition. She entered the novitiate in 1946, but the transition to convent life wasn’t easy at first for the outspoken young woman. Happily, her younger sister Pat entered a few years later, and Margaret says, “She taught me how to laugh.”

In 1949, when Sister first started teaching elementary grades in Marysville, it quickly became apparent that she wasn’t best suited to teach the little ones. She was soon missioned to College of Notre Dame (now Notre Dame de Namur University) and charged with starting and chairing an art department!  She said, “It was an exciting time; figuring it all out, buying lots of art books." One summer, she took a course in life drawing at UCLA in a huge class where she felt "quite conspicuous" in full habit!  Margaret loved those early College of Notre Dame art classes, and many former students still keep in touch. She treasures these enduring connections.

SR-Hoffman_ Margaret's NDNU Statue of Mary
This beautiful Madonna and Child was designed by Sr. Margaret.

Sister Margaret's artistic legacy can be seen to this day at Notre Dame de Namur University, where she designed the bell tower on campus and worked closely with the artist who created the stained glass windows in Cunningham Chapel. Her role as the creative arts instructor to the novices and postulants at the Saratoga novitiate influenced them personally and as future teachers. She also touched the lives of students at Emmanuel College in Boston, where she was asked to teach for a year.

Sr. Margaret in her early years of teaching at CND.

After 20 years at the university, she taught art at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, for 12 wonderful years.  At the same time, she did art therapy at convalescent homes for the elderly and mentally ill, who had little access to the arts.

In the early 1980s, Sister Margaret moved across the country to Washington, DC,  to work at the Notre Dame Mission Education Center.  It was here that she became politicized as she witnessed the involvement of SNDdeNs in Nicaragua in Central American conflicts. Two new passions were ignited: one for justice, the other for communications.

Sr. Margaret enjoying an outing with her dar sister, Sr. Pat Hoffman.
Sr. Margaret enjoys an outing with her dear sister, Sr. Pat Hoffman.

When Margaret returned to California in 1987, she assumed responsibility for the California Province newsletter, and initiated the Sisters' entree  to the world of the internet. Some 30 years later, she still works tirelessly to communicate issues of Justice and Peace. On any given day, you might find her teaching a class at NDNU, writing an E-Alert, or calling President Obama about an issue like human trafficking, care of the earth or immigration.  Her work has not gone unnoticed; earlier this year, Sr. Margaret received the 2016 Guardian of Justice Award from the Dorothy Stang Center at NDNU.

Though you might not think that Margaret has any spare time, she continues to express herself through art. She has created a series of artworks that combine quotes from the martyred Sr. Dorothy Stang and the Beatitudes. And she still enjoys reading a good mystery.

Sister Margaret strives to be reflective in the midst of action in these complex times. She looks back on her 70 years as a Sister of Notre Dame with gratitude for her “rich and beautiful” life.  She deeply values the community of St. Julie with its core conviction about the goodness of God.  As one of her favorite hymns says, “Our Good God IS so very good."


  1. Sister Margaret was the best art teacher I have ever had. She not only knew art but she lived it by creating wonder works of art. I learned more from her about art work and painter that to this day I can see a painting and say, that's a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh! Her enthusiasm and love of art taught me how to really look at life. Thank you Sister Margaret for your years of dedication and service.

  2. Sister Margaret, Thank you for being a listening ear during my time at NDNU. I am thankful for your compassion towards important issues like human trafficking and your interest in art therapy. You are very humble, as I did not know all of your foundational work towards the beauty created within the NDNU campus. The chapel was one of my favorite places to visit. The sunlight through the stained glass brought me so much peace. I am grateful that our paths crossed and that there was a Sister of Justice I could go to for encouragement.

    With Gratitude,

  3. Margaret,
    Your love of your sisters, associates, and friends is a hallmark of your life. We are ever grateful for your talent in art and leadership with peace, justice and the environment. Thank you for your model of compassion and courage.

  4. Margaret was a mentor, a model and a guru in teaching others and in expressing herself in words, print, and through art. Anything I know about graphic design, editing, printing etc, I learnt from Margaret as the team at Mission Education Centre, Washington DC, worked on the production of FORUM, alerts, memos, and other publications. It was an enriching and a learning time for us all.
    I still have vivid memories of my time with Margaret as she tried to park a huge, old, battered vehicle in parking lots near the Capitol during cold winter mornings and would then walk the corridors of power to meet with and, if appropriate, challenge certain senators on current issues of injustice e.g.apartheid in SA, and USA's involvement in Nicaragua. Clad in unprepossessing big boots and a dark mac, with a thick woollen grey scarf wound around her neck and a navy knitted cap pulled down over her ears, she reminded me of another feisty woman who trekked the highways and byways of France and Belgium.
    Margaret gifted me with an illustrated quotation of her own reflection on one conversation she had with an SND Coesfeld sister as they sat together near the garden of the Bishop's house in Namur. I carried this gift in my luggage as I finally returned to Nigeria in 1989. Now framed and on my bedroom wall, I cherish it as a reminder of a wonderful, indefatigable, generous, deeply passionate, compassionate and simple-living SND.
    May her life's story and example continue to inspire our Nigerian sisters who work in justice and peace, integrity of creation and communication.
    May Margaret rest in the perfect peace that the good God has surely granted her. Amen.

  5. Margaret was a member of the Northern California Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking. I will remember her passion for the oppressed and for her deep spiritual joy.

  6. Sister Margaret was Chair of the Art Dept at CND, at the time not yet NDNU when I was an Art major also getting teaching certification. She personally met with me each term while scheduling my classes. The department had excellent teacher/artists, Dr.George Harris, Rosemary Topp, Noelle Bennett. I went on to get an MA in Art.

    I reconnected with Sr. Margaret when I got a position teaching art at the high school where I was teaching ESL. As my father had passed away, I could think of one person who would be very happy for me at this time. We corresponded sporatically, enthusiastically, after that. I was able to visit with from Portland, OR a few years ago. Sr. Margaret's personally guided tour of the campus with all the back story and updates was a total pleasure. Her deep involvement with social justice issues is a model for us all. Her love of art was a joy to share.

  7. Sister Margaret, You were an inspiration in so many ways. When you worked with Eli Latimerlo, Meredith Wilkerson and me at the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center, you always provided new insights for our mission and our projects. Teaching a class each year to prepare our students for our annual trip to the School of the Americas protest in Columbus, Georgia provided us all with your knowledge and strength as it related to our namesake. The Ceiba tree (a relative of those in the Brazilian Amazon) planted outside the chapel now stands in honor of you. We will miss you.

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