Come Follow Me

Feb. 26-March 3, 04
Come Follow Me
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
Four religious sisters grow up together on Syracuse’s east side

Durston Avenue, nestled in East Syracuse between James Street and Grant Boulevard, is lined with trees and in walking distance of near by shops and schools. It is a special place for many families who call the avenue, which stretches for five blocks, ‘home.’ Durston Avenue is also a spot that four religious sisters hold close to their hearts. It was on this street where, as children, the seeds of their religious vocations were planted. The childhood homes of Sister Katherine (Kitty) Hanley, CSJ, Sister Katherine Arseneau, CSJ, Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, and Sister Ann Kendrick, SND, are on Durston Avenue. Although the four sisters grew up within blocks of each other, they had not met before entering religious life as young women. They passed each other walking home from school and became familiar faces, but did not grow up as close friends, said Sister Laura. Still, the four women share a common bond. “We are not ‘friends,’ as in having grown up together ‘friends.’ However, what we have in common is our love of the community and our passion for living the mission of Jesus,” Sister Laura said.

Sister Laura entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1967 and made her first profession of vows in 1970 –– Sister Kitty in 1959, Sister Katherine in 1966 and Sister Ann entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1966. Each woman heard the call from God to enter religious life in a different way. Sister Ann’s journey began when she was exposed to poverty and oppression as a foreign exchange student in Guatemala and later, as a college student in Honduras. While in Honduras, she was touched by the inequities between the white privileged society and the poor people of color. “I wanted to make a difference in the world and dedicate my life in some way to the people of God, especially the poor,” Sister Ann said.

St. Vincent de Paul School, where Sister Laura attended from grades two through 12, opened her eyes to religious life. The Sisters of St. Joseph staffed the school. “They were excellent teachers,” said Sister Laura. The Sisters of St. Joseph led Sister Laura to explore her gift of music. “It was our music teacher, Sister Jerome Joseph Romano, who died during the summer of 1999, that helped me discover that I had the gift of a beautiful voice,” Sister Laura said. “I often say that I fell in love with music and fell in love with God at the same time.”

She also said that her parents, Rocky and Stella Bufano, played a big part in her vocation. “My family was strong in their faith. Their spirit and enthusiasm, their caring and compassion, their love of life and their humanness attracted me,” said Sister Laura, whose parents still live at 211 Durston Ave. Sister Kitty’s mother and father were also instrumental in her religious vocation. “My parents were deeply devoted to the church and we all went to Mass regularly at St. John the Evangelist Church. We were active in all of the parish events and activities,” she said. It seems like a small possibility that four women, who lived on the same street for most of their childhoods, would all grow up to serve God in similar ministries. But according to Sister Laura, many of her peers were entering religious life at the time. “I think that the excitement and energy created by the work of the Second Vatican Council was part of what brought that about,” she said of entering religious life. “I know that we studied those documents in depth during my high school years and it fanned into flame the call that was being nurtured within me.”

Currently, Sister Kitty, Sister Katherine and Sister Laura minister in the Albany Province. The three sisters have had many occasions over the years to work together in various capacities. “We do see each other, primarily at large community gathering, liturgical celebrations and meetings,” said Sister Laura. Sister Ann was sent to Florida after joining the Sisters of Notre Dame 32 years ago. She still resides there today, where she works to improve the lives of migrant workers with the Farm Worker Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando. Like her three religious sisters in Albany, Sister Ann is a vibrant and active part of the community in which she serves.

All sisters agree that wherever their ministries may take them, they will not forget their roots on Durston Avenue in Syracuse. “I felt called into religious life. I know that I have lived into the answer to that question,” said Sister Laura. “Living religious life is my response to God’s invitation through Jesus…come follow me.”

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