Nun Inspired by Mother Teresa Helping Buffalo's Poor

November 20, 2013 Updated Nov 21, 2013 at 12:45 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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November 20, 2013 Updated Nov 21, 2013 at 12:45 AM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) Founded in 1985, the Response to Love Center on Kosciuszko Street in Buffalo has continued to grow and become an important community resource for the poor.

Sister Mary Johnice, a Felician Franciscan nun, is the driving force behind the center, and it was her encounter with Mother Teresa of Calcutta that led to the center's creation.

Speaking to Mother Teresa, Sister Johnice asked "if I have permission to go to Calcutta, can I join your sisters to learn?"

But the famous nun who worked with the poor in India said "No," instructing Sister Johnice to return to the east side of Buffalo to find her own Calcutta.

With no plan and no money, Sister Johnice relied on donations, volunteers, and lots of prayers to get the Response to Love Center operating at St. Aldalbert's Basilica.

"If it is God's work, He is going to provide."

Now nearly 30-years old, the Response to Love Center offers a food pantry, dinning program, thrift store, health services, and adult education classes (in conjunction with Buffalo Public Schools) for those in need.

Amazed at the success, Sister Johnice says it was faith that made everything happen.

Currently, the center is installing a new elevator which will help individuals in wheelchairs to access the center's different floors.

It will be blessed by Bishop Richard Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo on Thursday November 21st.

With the holidays just around the corner, the Response to Love Center is looking for donations.

Turkeys and canned food is needed for Thanksgiving and the center is looking for new toys for needy families at Christmas.

While Sister Johnice laughs at suggestions that she is Buffalo's version of Mother Teresa, she does point out that she was born on Lord Street on beggars night in 1946.

"I guess it was written in my plan from the beginning of time. When I think about it, how much begging have I done over the course of the years for this building. And Lord street, isn't that a sign?"

Sister Johnice will celebrate her 50th anniversary as a nun on July 27, 2014.