A funeral Mass for Sister Leonida Speh, SSND, was celebrated Sept. 13 at the School Sisters of Notre Dame Theresa Center chapel in south St. Louis County. Sister Leonida died Sept. 10 at Anna House at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton. She was 95 and a former teacher, administrator and community service volunteer.
Born in St. Louis, Sister Leonida entered the congregation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1942. She professed first vows in 1944 and final vows in 1950. In 1946, she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Saint Louis University. She earned a master’s degree in education, secondary administration from Immaculate Heart of Mary College in Los Angeles.
After first profession, Sister Leonida taught elementary children at St. Engelbert School in St. Louis, for one year. Starting in 1946, she taught high school science at St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington; the Academy of Notre Dame in Belleville, Ill.; and St. Anthony in Effingham, Ill.
In 1954, she was missioned to the Aspiranture in Sunland, Calif., where she remained for 15 years. The Aspiranture closed in 1969 and Sister Leonida went to Rosati-Kain High School in St. Louis, where she served as assistant principal. After seven years at Rosati-Kain, Sister Leonida served for 25 years at Notre Dame High School in St. Louis. During this time, she also volunteered as a beautician at St. Louis motherhouse, Villa Gesu and The Sarah Community, cutting sisters’ hair and giving permanents.
In 1988, Sister Leonida received a Certificate of Merit from the National Association of Biology Teachers. She received an award from the National Catholic Educational Association in 2001, which recognized her commitment to Catholic education.
For many summers, Sister Leonida joined Sister Ruth Speh in her ministry with the Papago Indians in Arizona or working with the poor in Louisiana. Later in life, Sister Leonida and Sister Ruth would travel through Elderhostel tours. Sister Leonida also enjoyed the outdoors and gardening. In 2005, Sister Leonida was missioned to Veronica House and then to Anna House in 2014.
Sister Leonida is survived by one sister, Frances Lee of St. Louis. Burial was in the Sancta Maria in Ripa Cemetery.