Sr. Helen Buscarino, founder of the food pantry at St. John the Baptist Church, has died

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Sep. 3—Sister Helen Buscarino, for whom Sister Helen's Food Pantry is named, died Tuesday in Buffalo. She was 98.

The pantry, which has been closed since March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, is being reopened on Sept. 12, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church announced this week.

Buscarino had recently celebrated her 80th Jubilee of religious life, according to her obituary published by Western New York Catholic. She ministered in city and rural areas of Buffalo, Lockport, Brooklyn, San Antonio and Brazil and was a catechist, director of religious education, teacher, missionary, pastoral associate and advocate for social justice. She started a food pantry in Lockport while serving as the director of religious education at St. John the Baptist.

St. John's parishioner Marion Hannigan remembers Buscarino as "very humble. and gentle. and dynamic."

"She was my mentor ... the one that got me into teaching" as a second career, following a stint in nursing, Hannigan said.

Hannigan added that she had talked to Buscarino only two days prior to her death.

"She sounded fine. She was in great spirits."

Buscarino was born on April 21, 1924, in Sicily. Her parents immigrated to Canada, then to Buffalo's west side, when she was an infant. Buscarino became a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child in 1942, after graduating valedictorian from Hutchinson Central High School. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education in the 1950s and a master's degree in religious studies in 1980.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter & Paul's Church in Williamsville.