Sister M. Martin de Porres, CSC
(Clara Barbara Ostafinski)
March 31, 1925–January 27, 2020
Word has been received of the death of Sister M. Martin de Porres (Ostafinski), CSC, who died at 10 a.m. on January 27, 2020, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Martin de Porres entered the Congregation from Detroit, Michigan, on February 13, 1943. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1945.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
Clara Barbara Ostafinski was the youngest of nine children born to Frank Ostafinski and Angela Orzech Ostafinski who emigrated to the United States from Poland, settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Clara was born on March 31, 1925.
Six months after she entered the Congregation at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, Clara received the holy habit of the Sisters of the Holy Cross on August 15, 1943. The novice of Polish descent also received a new name to signify a radical change from one way of life to another. Her religious name, Sister M. Martin de Porres, was of special significance to her. Her patron saint, Martin de Porres, was the son of a 16th century Spanish nobleman in Peru and an African woman freed from slavery. Early on, Sister had a desire to work among African-Americans to foster interracial harmony and did so in East Chicago, Indiana, and Cairo, Illinois. Her ministry among African-Americans throughout the 1950s was prior to the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Sister Martin de Porres once wrote, “My ministry has been varied from ‘day one’ … teacher of grades three through eight, principal in three elementary schools, and pastoral assistant in four parishes.” The major portion of her school ministry was in the American Midwest, while her pastoral ministry in parishes was in the West.
In 1975 Sister Martin de Porres sensed the time was right for a complete change in ministry. She transferred to the Southern Region of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and began ministry in Texas, working diligently to learn Spanish and serve as a pastoral assistant in parishes with significant Hispanic populations. Sister also served as treasurer and councilor for the region.
After 42 years of ministry, Sister Martin de Porres in 1987 felt a call for interior and theological renewal. She already had earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in 1962 and a master’s in education from Loyola University Chicago in Illinois in 1969. A sabbatical year in the CREDO spiritual renewal program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, was “a tremendous blessing.” After her sabbatical, she determined she still had energy for parish ministry for a few more years. The last parishes she served were St. Brendan Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, from 1988 to 1991, followed by St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish, Tacoma, Washington, until 2003.
Sister Martin de Porres was ready to embrace the ministry of prayer as an amazing grace when she retired to Saint Mary’s Convent in 2003. She wrote, “I’ve made so many transitions in my own life that I feel very much at home with this transition. … Change means growth, and so, I want to continue to grow with my community and to support it in every way possible. Thank God for Holy Cross!”
Though Sister will not be present this summer for the celebration of her 75th anniversary of initial profession, her example of quiet resolve against racism and injustices of every kind reminds one of the true meaning of the biblical jubilee: the restoration of human dignity. Thank God for Sister Martin de Porres, a woman who was able to embrace one last radical transition—to risen life in her 94th year!
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Sister M. Adria (Connors), CSC