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Way of the Cross recalls Sister Karen Good Friday participants remember nun who was killed after Lenten event last year

Last year, Sister Karen Klimczak handed out small crosses during the Way of the Cross Walk on Good Friday, bearing the names of recent homicide victims.

This year, a white cross with her name was among those worn by 20 people participating in the third annual downtown event.

It was hours after Sister Karen's participation last year in the Lenten re-enactment of Jesus' suffering that she was killed by an ex-convict who lived in the East Side halfway house she ran.

"She was just an angel, just a special, special person," said Rudolphus Boans Jr. a member of True Bethel Baptist Church and co-founder with Sister Karen of the Stop the Violence Coalition. Boans was dressed in a full-length leather coat, Levis jacket, scarf and long johns to brave the bone-chilling cold.

"Sister Karen was an absolute pleasure. I thank God for having the privilege of knowing her, and I will always carry her in my heart."

The walk involved stops at 21 places to commemorate the hardships that Jesus endured according to the New Testament. The sponsors, Pax Christi of Western New York and the Peace and Justice Commission of the Buffalo Diocese, called it "part peace march, part prayer service," as participants read Scripture, sang songs and made connections to contemporary social issues.

Stops included Buffalo Police Headquarters, to suggest where Jesus was arrested; the FBI building, where Jesus was judged by Pilate; and the Michael J. Dillon Courthouse on Niagara Square, where Jesus was sentenced to death.

Matthew Boyle, the Respect Life coordinator for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Colden, said it was at the same spot a year ago that Sister Karen asked people to sign a pledge not to have the death penalty implemented if any of them were the victim of a violent crime.

"It's very spooky," he said.

Jean Klimczak, the nun's sister, said Sister Karen, a pacifist, was there in spirit -- that the social issues stemming from violence were being addressed.

"We need to continue to be more aware of those who have been tortured and abused, or are in need. I think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just the tremendous suffering that people throughout the world are undergoing," Klimczak said.

"I think it's a good opportunity for people to remember Sister Karen and also think about [the issues she cared about]," said Katie Smith, a sophomore at Amherst High School.

Her father, Matthew R. Smith, a member of Buffalo Catholic Worker, said, "This is not just a re-enactment of history. I'm afraid that sometimes our faith becomes a ritual detached from life, and in this walk we try to connect the passion of our Lord to how we can better live out our faith."

Bill Marx, regional representative for Pax Christi, said the last thing Sister Karen would have wanted people to focus on was herself.

"Her example is Jesus Christ, who preached nothing but nonviolence," Marx said.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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