Remembering Sister Margaret (Margaret Mary) Hoffman (1927-2021)

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 (CND) 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 CND 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.

Sr. Margaret's artistic legacy can be seen to this day. At Notre Dame de Namur University, 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 CND, 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, Sr. 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 SNDs 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.

Sr. Margaret is a gifted artist.
Sr. Margaret is a gifted artist.

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.

Sr. Margaret strives to be reflective in the midst of action in these complex times. Sister 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."

Sister Margaret died peacefully on March 29, 2021, at the Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland.


  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.

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