Sister M. Martin de Porres, CSC
(Clara Barbara Ostafinski)
March 31, 1925—January 27, 2020
Entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Detroit, Michigan on February 13, 1943
Initial profession of vows on August 15, 1945
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 entrance to the convent at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, Clara received the holy habit of a 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 sixteenth 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 1950’s 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. While in the Southern Region, Sister also served as treasurer and councilor for the Region.
After 42 years of ministry, in 1987 Sister Martin de Porres felt a call for interior renewal and theological updating. She already had earned a bachelor’s of science degree from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana in 1962 and a master’s in education from Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois in 1969. A sabbatical year in the Credo 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. Her last parishes where she served were at Saint Brendan Parish in Los Angeles, California from 1988 to 1991, followed by Saint Charles Borromeo 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, Notre Dame, Indiana in 2003. She had written, “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!
--Written by Sister M. Adria (Connors), CSC
Kaniewski Funeral Homes is handling arrangements at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto on Thursday,
January 30, 2020 beginning with Visitation at 9:15 a.m. with Prayers and Memento at 10:15 a.m., followed immediately by the Mass of Resurrection. We invite you to make a donation in Sister’s name to the Sisters of the Holy Cross Ministry with the Poor Fund at www.cscsisters.org
To send flowers to Sister Martin de Porres (Clara Barbara Ostafinski), C.S.C.'s family, please visit our floral section.