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Father Bissonette's Legacy 25 Years After Murder

8:17 PM, Feb 26, 2012   |    comments
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Father Bissonette

Buffalo, N.Y. - 25 years ago, Father Joseph Bissonette was brutally murdered. It was a crime that shocked Buffalo, and would only be solved after the murder of a second priest. Father Bissonette's brother Ray sat down with us in the room where his brother's body was found to talk about the legacy left behind.

Ray says his brother was making sandwiches for two teens who had come to the rectory at St. Bartholomew's saying they were hungry. The teens bound, gagged and stabbed Father Bissonette.  They killed him for money.  At first, refugees living at the rectory were the only suspects, but the murder of a second priest, Monsignor David Herlihy at St. Matthew's, lead to the arrests of 17 year old Milton Jones and 18 year old Theodore Simmons. They were convicted of both crimes and are serving a minimum sentence of 50 years. Ray has spoken with his brother's killers because he wanted to know more than what was said at trial. He says he learned that the men and not monsters. 

The room where Father Bissonette's body was found is now a place to reflect at Bissonette House where men recently released from prison are rebuilding their lives. There are pictures of Father Bissonette demonstrating for social justice, helping the sick and poor and laughing. They are a sign of how Father Bissonette's legacy lives on today.

Ray says he didn't learn until after his brother's death just how much he did as a priest to help others. He says his brother believed he needed to physically be with people in need to make a big difference in their lives. Ray says, "He spent a lot of time where a lot of other people didn't want to go." He hopes people reflecting on the death of his brother 25 years later support those who are making a big difference in small ways today. Ray says, "There are and there always will be people like Joe. People who are committed to causes that are bigger and more important than they are, and I would hope that because of what he did and because of what people like him do that they continue to attract admiration."

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