The mass shooting at a busy grocery store, reportedly inspired by hate and racism, happened just two miles from Response to Love Center on Kosciuszko Street in the east side of Buffalo, NY. “It's a very sad, difficult time for all of us because all of us are family,” said Sr. Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz who was born, raised and worked in ministry on Buffalo’s east side for over 75 years.
Sadly, the violence touched two of our Felician communities directly. A former Villa Maria College student, whose mother is an alum and member of the college’s Board of Trustees, was shot. We are grateful that he has already been released from the hospital and is healing. Two aunts of one of our health care aides at Villa Maria Convent were also at the supermarket. One of them was killed by the shooter, while another escaped unharmed.
Sr. Johnice, along with other Response to Love Center staff, Sr. Rose Szymanski, Chaplain Father Fred Betti, and assistant director Michael Gilhooly, attended a neighborhood rally to support the families of the victims killed or injured during the May 14, 2022 mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market.
The Response to Love team observed anger, sadness, and loss among the families and community members, and provided one of the core beliefs of the Felician Sisters: the ministry of compassionate presence and accompaniment. In the wake of this unspeakably evil act, Response to Love shared the healing presence of God in the face of a situation that cannot be explained or understood.
"We are so happy we can be part of the journey, grieving with people, bringing them compassion and love. We want to be Jesus for them. We want to spread that love. We want to end any kind of racism, any kind of violence, any kind of hurt that has come into this community and anywhere we live,” Sr. Johnice expressed.
In the midst of the community gathering where families received donated groceries and household essentials, and spent time with each other in fellowship, Sr. Johnice reflected, “Why can't it be like this all the time, where we help one another, we journey with one another, that we show who we are, brother and sister in Christ?” While Sr. Johnice along with all those impacted by this tragedy feel a sense of helplessness, there is also hope. “Is God's dream shattered, or will God's dream become a reality? It can,” she said, “through all of us.”
In a statement on the horrific incident, Provincial Minister Sr. Judith Kubicki said, “Our prayers are with the victims, the survivors of the shooting, and all those who mourn the loss of innocent lives. Let us recommit ourselves to love, respect, and compassion for all people in their rich, God-given diversity. Let us also recommit ourselves to seeking the truth and denouncing the lies and hate promoted on social media. May we be instruments of peace, love, and compassion in a world that faces the trauma of violence and hate every single day.”