Ellen Hoffman, RSCJ

Sister Ellen Hoffman

Birth: September 28, 1916
Profession: August 2, 1943
Death: January 19, 2015

Religious of the Sacred Heart Ellen Hoffman died Monday, January 19, 2015, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s elder care center in Atherton, California. A natural teacher, she touched countless lives not only through her own work in the classroom, but through her service as teacher trainer and mentor. Known to many as “Hoffy,” her life will be celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, February 7, at 10:00 a.m. at Oakwood, 140 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton. Burial will follow in the Sacred Heart cemetery at Oakwood.

Ellen Justine Hoffman was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on September 28, 1916, to William Francis and Rosella Dolan Hoffman, the youngest of five siblings. At 98, Ellen was preceded in death by her parents and all of her brothers and sister: half-brother John Hoffman, brothers William Hoffman and Joseph Hoffman and sister Mary Rita Hoffman. She is survived by a cousin, Rosemary Cushing, of Omaha, Nebraska and a niece, Adelaide Herzeg, of Danville, Illinois and her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart.

A graduate of the Convent of the Sacred Heart in St. Joseph, Ellen felt a call to religious life at a young age. After a year at Duchesne College in Omaha, she entered the novitiate at Kenwood, in Albany in 1935. She made her first vows March 15, 1938 and final profession in Albany, August 2, 1943.

Sister Hoffman’s first assignment after first vows was at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Lake Forest, Illinois, where she taught the youngest students and served in the dormitory. At the same time, she devoted weekends to studying to complete college courses and working on her teaching credentials. Following this, she spent two years at Duchesne Academy in the elementary school and one more year at Lake Forest. She completed her degree, from Duchesne College (Omaha), in 1941.

In 1944, Sister Hoffman arrived at Sacred Heart Schools (Sheridan Road), Chicago, where she would remain until 1956. She worked with both the elementary and middle students, at both the girls and the boys from Hardey Prep. She continued taking summer courses in psychology at Loyola University and science math, art and speech courses at Barat College. She would earn her Master’s Degree in education psychology at San Francisco College for Women (now a part of the University of San Francisco) in 1955.

When an elementary school for boys, Stuart Hall, was opened in San Francisco in 1956, Sister Hoffman moved to San Francisco, where for eight years she taught in the Academy’s elementary school and the first grade at Stuart Hall, as well as preparing children for First Communion. In 1964, she moved to El Cajon, California, where she taught in both the Academy of the Sacred Heart elementary school and the Society’s novitiate, where she taught education.

Sister Hoffman returned to San Francisco in 1967 to teach in the girls’ elementary school. She would remain there until 1994. During these three decades, she variously taught in the elementary school, served briefly as principal, supervised new teachers, served as director of the learning center, oversaw curriculum, worked with children with special learning needs and worked in the library.

From 1955 to 1972, Sister Hoffman spent her summers teaching education and psychology at Duchesne College (Omaha), San Francisco College for Women and San Diego College for Women (now part of the University of San Diego), all colleges operated by the Society of the Sacred Heart.

In the 1980s, she went for three summers to a small town in Idaho, to give religious instruction to children and their parents. In the ‘90s, she spent six weeks at the Soboba Indian Reservation preparing Native Americans for First Communion.

In 1999, as both her eyesight and hearing had seriously diminished, Sister Hoffman asked to move to Oakwood, the retirement center for the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, California. Here her talent as painter in water colors began to shine. And here her beautiful spirit and surrender to God’s plan touched all those who came in contact with her; her joy and love for her sisters shone brightly day by day.

For thirteen years, Sister Hoffman led a contemplative life at Oakwood, inspiring all those around her. Although almost totally blind and deaf, she remained a woman of faith and love, joy and courage, to the very end.

Schools of the Sacred Heart, San Francisco (Convent & Stuart Hall) posted a lovely tribute to Sister Hoffman.


Submitted by Joanna Gallegos on

Hoffy was always an inspiration to me when we were together at Schools of the Sacred Heart San Francisco, and continued to be so after she retired to Oakwood. It is hard to think of a world without her, but I know her spirit will shine on us forever.