May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Mary Martinez (Virginia) Rozek, CSSF

Sr. Mary Martinez (Virginia) Rozek, CSSF, of Chicago, age 87, religious 70 years, died April 28, 2020, in Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Livonia.

The third of three children of Aloysius and Clara (Pletzki), Virginia was born on Nov. 20, 1932, and baptized at St. Joseph Church in Chicago. She attended St. Stanislaus Grade School Bay City and High School at the Seminary of the Felician Sisters in Detroit. Accepted into the Felician Congregation in 1949, she received the name Sr. Mary Martinez. Perpetual commitment of vows was in 1957.

A celebration of Sr. Mary Martinez’s life will be held at a future date at the Felician Sisters’ convent located at 36800 Schoolcraft Road, Livonia.
Sr. Mary Martinez (Virginia) Rozek, CSSF

Sr. Mary Martinez earned a bachelor’s degree from Madonna (College) University and a master’s in Education from St. Mary’s College, Winona, Minn. She taught both on the elementary and secondary levels, spanning 65 years.

Sr. Martinez took correspondence courses in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin, and volunteered to teach catechism at Ste. Anne Parish, Detroit. While teaching at Patronage of St. Joseph School, she learned Italian by listening, by reading, and by attending the Italian Sunday Mass. 

During her 65 years in the ministry of education, Sr. Mary Martinez taught in elementary and high schools in Michigan and Indiana, including: Sacred Heart, Patronage of St. Joseph, Holy Ghost, Resurrection and St. Andrew, all in Detroit; Holy Rosary, Saginaw; St. Damien and St. Thecla, Clinton Township; St. Adalbert, South Bend, Ind. In addition, Sister taught and was principal at St. Dunstan, Garden City; St. Stephen/Mother of God in Detroit; St. Florian, Hamtramck; and assistant principal in addition to teaching English at Sacred Heart Parish, Pomona, Calif. She also taught English to a group of Chinese women. 

Assigned to Madonna University in 1983, Sister initiated and directed the Office of Multicultural Affairs and several other programs geared to preparing minority high school students for college-level classes, and a program focused on educational opportunities for Hispanic women in southwest Detroit. 

Sr. Martinez exhibited a true ability for languages. Although her strong talents were teaching and fluently speaking French and Spanish, she was also able to mentor many people from a variety of cultures and languages. Sister would meet someone for the first time and not know a single word of their language, nor would they know a single word of English. At the end of her mentoring and teaching sessions with them they were both able to converse in each other’s language.

Working tirelessly for more than 50 years among the Spanish-speaking people, Sr. Mary Martinez assisted with drafting the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry; participated in a workshops at Madonna University; and took part in peace and justice symposiums, Right to Life events, World Hunger Dinners, Multicultural Forum, and Christian Baskets for the poor. As a proposal writer, she worked on several similar projects in California, Michigan, Indiana and Mexico.  

Sister served on the Board of Directors for Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development; Latino Family Services; Service, Employment, Redevelopment; United Foundations of Southeastern Michigan; and Latino Catholic Pastoral Center. Committees included: SWEEP (Southwest Women’s Educational Enhancement Project) in southwest Detroit; MOM (Minorities-on-the-Move); PLAID (People of Livonia Addressing Issues of Diversity); LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens, Council #11070); and appointment by Gov. John Engler as a member of the Michigan Community Service Commission. 

Among the awards Sister Martinez received are the following: 

  • 1989 – Nominated for Michigan Outstanding Non-Hispanic Educator of the Year Award
  • 1998 – Received the Detroit Latino Award for contributions to the community and for enhancing the Christian spirit of Latino People 
  • 1998 – Honored as a member of the Livonia Human Relations Commission’s Honor Role as an individual who promoted amicable relations among all racial, religious and ethnic groups

Sr. Martinez was an avid reader, even up to the last few weeks before her death. Sister also took great pride in sorting and cataloging the books from the sisters’ large library. She would often choose and display special ones which she thought the sisters would enjoy reading throughout the year. 

Her health gradually declined and sisters from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent kept vigil in prayer the last few days. Shortly after noon on April 28, Sr. Mary Martinez peacefully left this earth to return to the God whom she so faithfully and joyously served on this earth. 

Sr. Mary Martinez is survived by a nephew, Fr. James Pawlicki, SDW, and nieces and nephews.

Interment was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, on Saturday, May 2, 2020.

Obituaries for clergy and religious who have lived or served in the Archdiocese of Detroit may be emailed to [email protected]. Obituaries are printed as they are submitted, but may be edited slightly for grammar and style. Detroit Catholic reserves the right to refuse or edit any submissions.