What started as a scary event for a 100-year-old sister, turned out to have a heroic happy ending.
Sister Rita Kane, SSJ, a close friend of the late Msgr. Paul Juenker, visited the recently deceased priest's room at the O'Hara Residence in Tonawanda and found herself trapped in the retired priests' home. It took three students of Cardinal O'Hara High School to rescue her.
On April 12, a rainy Thursday, Sister Rita came to the residence with Donna Juenker, niece and part-time caretaker of Msgr. Juenker, to sort through some of his personal possessions. Donna went out to the parking lot to bring her car closer to the building, leaving Sister Rita, who uses a wheelchair, stuck in a vestibule unable to move in or out.
"We came to pick up some of the things of Msgr. Juenker. Donna took me out to the entrance and left me there. Now, I'm in a real tight little - it's like a telephone booth, in the wheelchair and it's locked. So, there's no place I can go," Sister Rita explained. "She's gone so long. She said she was just going to put stuff in the car and come back and get me. You know, when you're anxious, time seems like an hour. I kept saying, 'Where is she? Where is she?' All of a sudden, this big guy and somebody else come to the door and said, 'Let me in.' I'm thinking they're hoodlums. Not only could I not let them in, I didn't want them in."
Those "hoodlums" were three O'Hara students coming back from McDonald's after a school retreat. They were not wearing their school colors. They saw Donna's car with door and trunk open, while Donna, who had accidently dumped her purse into the backseat of her car, tried to gather her valuables in the pouring rain. They offered their assistance.
"These young men initiated contact with me. Do I need help? I thanked them very much and said, yes. That's when they went to fetch Sister and bring her out to the car," Juenker said.
Ethan Wrona, 17, the "big guy," was able to find a call button to open the door of the residence.
"He wanted to pick me out of the wheelchair and carry me to the car," Sister Rita said. "I said, 'You can take me to the car in the wheelchair. But, where is the lady that I'm suppose to be with?' All this time I'm not having good vibes at all. You hear so much on television. You hear some pretty bad stories."
Her worries proved to be unfounded, as Ethan pushed Sister Rita to the car, picked her up and placed her in the car, and only after making sure she was secure, did he close the door. Meanwhile his brother Jason and friend Brandon Heacock helped Donna.
Sister Rita expected the kids to take Donna's purse and steal the car.
"You know what goes through your minds when you are afraid? All these things are so real to you. Then to think that everything turned out so well, it speaks so well of these young men. It was really a great experience," Sister Rita said.
The guys admit they never thought of taking the car. In fact, the three are pretty modest about the whole thing. An announcement had to be made over the school loudspeaker to track the boys down because they didn't think to tell anyone of their good deed. Heacock never even told his parents. They found out through a phone call from the school.
"I would want someone to help me if I was in that situation," he said.
The Wronas credit their parents and the Boy Scouts of America for teaching them their values.
"When you see someone in need just help them. It's not going to be that much trouble," Ethan Wrona said.
The five reunited at Cardinal O'Hara in late April, so Sister Rita could thank the boys again for their help. And she no longer thinks of them as hoodlums.
"I think they're real men. I don't even think of them as boys. They acted like men," she said.