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Mother Teresa’s work continues to influence Buffalo’s East Side

Sister Mary Johnice
File photo by Response to Love Center
Sister Mary Johnice

As the Catholic world continues to celebrate the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, her inspiration continues to be felt in the Buffalo community.

Sister Mary Johnice, executive Director of Buffalo’s Response to Love Center, met Mother Teresa in 1985 while studying at a seminary in Philadelphia.

She said Mother Teresa’s work inspired her to want to help the poor – so much so, that she asked Mother Teresa if she could join in her charitable work in Calcutta, India.

“And she just smiled and she said, ‘No. I want you to go back to your neighborhood and find a Calcutta,’” Sister Johnice recalled. When she asked Mother Teresa how to follow that guidance, she was told, “You go to the people, you embrace them and you look in their eyes and find Jesus. You learn their names and listen to their stories.”

Sister Johnice said that interaction inspired her to return to Buffalo and found the Response to Love Center on Buffalo’s East Side. To this day, the non-profit organization focuses on the holistic treatment of poverty.

While Sister Johnice knows Mother Teresa’s life and work helping those in need will continue to serve as an inspiration many years to come, there’s one thing about the soon-to-be saint that has moved her the most.

“What touches me is when she speaks,” said Sister Johnice. “She goes up to the people and she just embraces the dying people. When somebody says to her, ‘We really love to see what you do, we want to be like you.’ She says, ‘No, I’m only a pencil in go’s hand and I’m here to do god’s work. It’s not my work, but it’s what god calls me to do.’ That has been my inspiration and my thought as I work with the poor here on the east side.”

The announcement of Mother Teresa’s pending canonization came just a week before Christmas. Sister Johnice noted that there’s no better time of year to remember Mother Teresa’s message of hope.

“This is a time when Christ is being born, and he is the model of poverty for all of us,” said Johnice. “We need to look at him and realize he had no place to live, he had no home, he had no shelter, he had no money. He was poor and he is an example for the poor in today’s world. So let’s embrace him and remember the poor who are amongst us.”

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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