Bishop Timon St. Jude High School in South Buffalo, New York is devoted to the education of young men.  Since 2011, this Franciscan High School has offered a unique program to eighth grade boys in public and private Catholic elementary schools in the area. Once nominated by a teacher, these young men spend four full days at Timon High School in their Leadership Program.

Suzanne Overdorf is the director of the Leadership Program and has designed the course curriculum to include identifying common traits exemplified by leaders. She teaches her students skills which enable them to develop and sharpen their innate leadership traits such as: problem-solving, conflict resolution and effective communication. 

Once in the program, the young men need to conceptualize and follow through on a service project.   “When I was thinking about what to do for my Leadership Program service project, I remembered something I heard our pastor, Fr. Mark Noonan say,” explains Nick Stein, eighth grader at St. John Vianney school  and member of Bishop Timon St. Jude’s Leadership Program.  

“Fr. Mark says he wants St. John Vianney to be known as a place of kindness. So, I wanted my service project to highlight kindness.”  Stein continues, “After some brainstorming, I decided to ask Sr. Johnice if she could use handmade inspirational cards to help spread God’s love and kindness to others. She loved the idea but asked me to tweak it a bit.”

“When I received the call from Nick asking what he could do to help at The Response to Love Center I was very touched,” comments director of The Response to Love Center, Sr. Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz CSSF.

“It’s always nice when young people take an interest in helping those in need. I loved Nick’s idea of asking his entire school to create cards. I explained to Nick I would put these cards in bags of food that we hand out, so I asked him to include a package of hot chocolate in each card. So, now those in need will be fed spiritually by the prayers and good thoughts expressed in these cards made by the students at St. John Vianney School, and they will be fed physically by the food in the bag.”

2019 will mark the 35th year since The Response to Love Center opened its doors on 130 Kosciuszko St, Buffalo, New York.  “When St. Adalbert’s parish school was closed in 1985, the community was gripped with grief, frustration, and a deep fear for the future,” explains Sr. Johnice.

Under the leadership of Sr. Johnice and a host of volunteers the building was transformed into a community outreach center and quickly became a center of love and acceptance for all who enter.  The Response to Love Center has a Thrift Shop, Kitchen, Chapel, Food Bank and Pantry, Education Center, Veteran Career Center, and they offer an abundant of Client Services.

“The mission is to build up the kingdom of God here on earth through touching peoples’ lives, helping people to grow, teaching people to love, and leading them, in turn, to respond in love to others,” comments Sr. Johnice. “That’s why I loved Nick’s card idea. Now my people at The Response to Love Center will know of the kindness and prayers of the children at St. John Vianney Catholic elementary school in Orchard Park.”

“I was able to give Sr. Johnice 177 handmade cards! I am very proud of my school,” comments Stein. “It was so nice to have the teachers and students help me with this service project, and I’m happy to carry out Fr. Mark’s idea of making sure people know St. John Vianney’s is a place of kindness!”