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Finding Her Voice: An Interview with Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, Congregational Leader
Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, Is a Leader in Her Congregation
Sister Laura Bufano, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for over 40 years, said she fell in love with music and God at the same time.
She grew up in Syracuse and attended St. Peter’s Church on James Street and graduated from St. Vincent de Paul High School. Sister Jerome Joseph at St. Vincent’s discovered Sister Laura’s musical gift and she’s been embracing it ever since. “My decision to enter the congregation was inspired by the sisters who taught me,” Sister Laura said. “They were alive, human. They laughed, they cried and they danced.”
She said her love of liturgy was inspired by listening to Adam Smalley who traveled all around the diocese teaching about liturgy during her high school years. Sister Laura was a member of her school and church choir and considered both a music career and religious life when she was young. She decided to give religious life a chance and her family was very supportive.
Her parents were her strongest examples of faith, Sister Laura said. Her mother Stella died in 2005 and her father, Rocco died just a week ago. “Our faith life as a family was strong,” she said. “Especially with my grandmothers.”
Sister Laura had no shortage of strong, faithful women as role models. Her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was only 30 and she had an indomitable spirit in spite of the disease. “I can remember my mother before her diagnosis and she was an incredibly fun person. Only her faith could have enabled her to live with that disease for so long,” Sister Laura said. “She had a gentle strength. My parents were the greatest example to me of faithfulness. Love is the soil in which the seeds of my vocation were planted.”
Although one side of her family was hopeful that Sister Laura would end up as an opera singer for the New York Metropolitan Opera — and even promised her a new Cadillac if she did — Sister Laura had other aspirations. Those seeds first planted in her family have now taken root and are an important part of her life as a Sister of St. Joseph.
Sister Laura is currently serving her far-reaching congregation as a member of the Congregational Leadership Team. The sisters have a leadership style based on collaboration and respect for the many ideas and gifts brought to the table. It’s an environment Sister Laura thrives in. Her work in the Syracuse Diocese was all about empowering others to find a way to work together. Her positions in the diocese included serving as music educator at St. Anthony of Padua School in Syracuse’s south side and as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford and at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool. Sister Laura served in diocesan ministry as Co-director for Church Vocations from 1985 to 1990 and as director of the Office of Liturgy from 1993 to 2000. She served on the Albany Province’s leadership team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet from 1996 to 2000 and then on the Province Executive Committee full-time from 2000 to 2004.
Her role as liturgical ministry specialist with the Cortland County Pastoral Care Area began in 2004 and was a very productive and special experience for her. She left to take her leadership position within her congregation in 2008. Sister Laura has a degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose, a master’s degree in music education from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and a master’s degree in liturgical music from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Through the years, Sister Laura has been a frequent presenter at workshops and conferences, almost always incorporating song in her talks. “I can’t give a talk or presentation without including music and the assembly,” she explained. A phrase or refrain from a favorite liturgical song will make its way into most presentations whether it be for a retreat for retired sisters, or workshops for priests and the laity. She still has a love of music and of God and both shine through her work.
Sister Laura (right) in Chile with Sister Susan Hames
and CSJ Associate Menche Rojas.