Share this article

print logo

Sister Karen's legacy lives Center to carry on message of peace

At one point last spring, the total on the large wooden dove in front of Bissonette House, the Grider Street residence for former convicts, reached 20. That many days had passed since the city's last homicide.

Then came the Good Friday murder of Sister Karen Klimczak, who ran the halfway house, at the hands of a parolee.

The death of the 62-year-old nun, who inspired the "Nonviolence Begins With Me!" lawn signs that had popped up everywhere the previous summer, foreshadowed a surge of mayhem on city streets. Buffalo ended 2006 with 73 homicides, the fourth highest total in its history.

Turning back that dreadful tide is the challenge facing the SSJ Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence, opening Saturday on the upper floor of a church hall at 80 Durham Ave. behind Bissonette House.

The new agency was formed by the Sisters of St. Joseph as a living memorial to their colleague, who devoted her life to ministering to convicts as well as to victims of violence. Longtime peace activists Jim and Audrey Mang will be co-directors and Sister Marion Zimmer office manager.

The sisters "wanted something more than a plaque or an annual liturgy," to remember Sister Karen, said Jim Mang, who served with his wife on a small committee formed weeks after the dedicated nun was killed.

"This seems to be the best way to carry out her vision," he said.

A mission statement says the Sister Karen Center "is committed to eliminate violence in ourselves, in our society and in our world." It promises to assemble "the what, where and who of the best nonviolence resources;" provide educational programs and training for youths and adults, including the existing Alternatives to Violence Project; and collaborate with other groups that promote nonviolence, such as the St. Joseph Associates Earth Committee, PEACE, FATHERS and Stop the Violence.

A citywide search for office space ended in the backyard of Bissonette House. The Rev. Jeff Carter of Ephesus Ministries, which occupies the former St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church on Grider, offered the upstairs floor of the church social hall.

Carter worked closely with Sister Karen.

"And this is the kind of ministry his congregation had been looking to support," Jim Mang said.

Donations received by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Sister Karen's memory were used to pay start-up expenses, and members of the order spent two months sprucing up the facility. The center will seek grants and other gifts to meet operating costs, Mang said.

"We've received calls from people all over the community asking how they can help carry on Sister Karen's work," Audrey Mang said. "They can help by contributing."

An open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday will get the organization up and running. There will be a brief program, including the unveiling of Sister Karen's portrait and a blessing by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec. Light refreshments will be served.

Sister Karen's legacy will be further celebrated at the Phoenix Awards dinner March 31 at the Buffalo Convention Center. A new Peaceprints Award, named for the lawn signs and bumper stickers that circulated after her death, will be presented to her family.

Sponsored by several peace groups, the Phoenix awards recognize ex-offenders who are turning their lives around. A silent auction will benefit Cephas, a prison ministry that helps inmates prepare to return to society.

Steven T. and Shirley Banko are honorary dinner chairman and chairwoman. For information, call 856-6131.


There are no comments - be the first to comment