Sister Margaret (Joseph Louise) Lederer

‘Nothing happens by chance…It is always the disposition of God’
‘Our path has been marked out for us…let us walk along it bravely, remembering that Jesus goes before us'

-St. Julie Billiart

Having been taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for 12 years, it was not surprising that young Margaret Lederer entertained the idea of becoming a Sister herself. Sisters like Marie Veronica Wagner, SNDdeN, whose persona inspired Margaret, helped sway her decision to join. "Sister (Marie) was a very simple, very holy person. An authentic person. I connected with that," Margaret remembers.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Music and English at the College of Notre Dame, Sister Margaret began teaching 4th grade at Notre Dame Elementary School in San Francisco, Callif. Shortly after the Watts Riots in 1965, she was assigned to Mother of Sorrows School in Los Angeles, which was located in a then-predominantly Black area. "I didn't worry about it [racial tension], I just went where I was assigned, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I loved the people and the culture,” she says.

An assignment to St. Mark's School in Seattle in 1974 brought her to Washington State where she taught and served as principal at a variety of parish schools for the next 26 years. Diane Howe, a former co-worker at St. Mark’s and lifelong friend, shares, “Sr. Margaret is a remarkable woman with an enormous capacity to love. From that love springs all of her other wonderful gifts: her kindness and generosity; her dedication to her work; her patience and understanding. Margaret is a living manifestation of God's presence among us.”

At St. Rose School in Longview, Wash., Sister Margaret remembers replacing a much-loved principal who had to step down due to health problems. What could have been a difficult situation was anything but. "The teachers, children and families were so warm and welcoming. I loved being there!"

Between 1999 and 2001, she served as the Area Manager of Head Start at Lower Columbia College in Washington. Having similar duties to that of a principal, she describes her time here as a wonderful period in her life, explaining that “…working with teachers and children always brought me much joy.”

Sister Margaret Lederer teaches preschoolers how to interact with dogs. Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of Cowlitz County, Wash.

Years later, during which Margaret continued to teach, her friend suggested a position with the Humane Society. Sister Margaret then utilized her 40+ years of teaching experience to work with preschoolers on animal safety and respect and with the elderly to bringing them comfort and love through a service animal. She retired from that position in 2012 and went on to become the caregiver for Sister Dolores Fowler, SNDdeN who was like a sister to her. Sister Dolores passed away in 2016.

Looking back on her years as a Sister, Margaret states, “What I have LOVED most about my journey is encountering those persons who have influenced and helped me become the person I am—and who are still very much a part of my life. Education in all the many ways that I have experienced has been AWESOME!!! And I thank God for that.”

Sister Margaret's Ministries

1965 Notre Dame San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif. (Teacher, 4th Grade)
1966-71 Mother of Sorrow School, Los Angeles, Calif. (Teacher, 4th and 6th Grades)
1971-73 Notre Dame Elementary, Chico, Calif. (Teacher, 6th Grade)
1973-74 Madonna del Sasso School, Salinas, Calif. (Teacher, 6th Grade)
1974-76 St. Mark School, Seattle, Wash. (Teacher, 6th Grade)
1976-78 St. Thomas Moore, Lynnwood, Wash. (Teacher, 6th Grade)
1978-83 St. Thomas Moore, Lynnwood, Wash. (Principal & Part-time Teacher)
1984-87 Perpetual Help School, Everett, Wash. (Principal)
1984-87 St. Pius Xth School, Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (Teacher)
1987-91 St. Rose School, Longview, Wash. (Principal)
1991-97 Longview School District, Longview, Wash. (Substitute Teacher)
1999-2001 Lower Columbia College, Longview, Wash. (Manager: Headstart)
2001- St. Joseph School, Chehalis, Wash. (Teacher, 7th/8th Grade)
2005 Longview, Wash. (Hospice Chaplain)
2007 Humane Society, Longview, Wash. (Public Relations Education & Outreach)
2015 Longview, Wash. (Volunteer Services)

If you’d like to make a gift to the Sisters in Sister Margaret's honor online, please click here or to give by mail or phone, please click here.