It was seeing people dying of starvation in garbage pails during a trip to São Paulo, Brazil that put a face on hunger for Sister Helen Buscarino. “It broke my heart to see the extreme poverty,” she says.
Heartbreaking, yes – but also inspiring. While ministering at St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport, New York, Sister Helen began a food pantry for people in need right in her own back yard. The pantry became a much needed source of food, particularly for migrant farm workers who were faced with a loss of income during the off season.
Affiliated with the Food Bank of Western New York, the food pantry continues to serve the community to this day. Sister Helen, who presently resides at St. Mary of the Angels in Williamsville, still radiates joy when she recalls her days at the food pantry. “I was so happy to give food to the poor,” she says with a smile.
But food for the body wasn’t the only thing Sister Helen gave visitors to the pantry. She and her many volunteers also offered food for the soul in the form of prayer and loving support. “It is wonderful that many of these people don’t want to live in poverty,” she says. “They want to better their lives.”
Known by many as the “Mother Teresa of Lockport,” Sister Helen humbly down plays any of the similarities between her and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. “Mother Theresa endured so much more than I did,” she explains.
Although it has been 15 years since she left Lockport, Sister Helen remains devoted to serving the poor. For example, she sends a monthly letter and donation to Martha, a client she met more than 20 years ago at the food pantry. Deported to Mexico, Martha has been separated from her children and grandchildren for more than 10 years. Sister Helen prays Martha will be reunited with her family soon.
Through her prayer ministry, Sister Helen offers prayers for Martha and the many people in need around the world. As she reflects upon her 73 years as a Catholic sister, Sister Helen says some of her happiest were the ones she spent in Lockport, where her long-standing legacy of service lives on in the hearts of all those who have come to experience Sister Helen’s Food Pantry.