July 12-18, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 24
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
The imagery of growth is important to Sister Laura, who says she plants seeds of liturgy in the Cortland County Pastoral Care Area.
The parishes involved with Sister Laura’s liturgical ministry include St. Mary’s, Cortland; St. Margaret’s, Homer; St. Patrick’s, Truxton; St. Lawrence Mission, DeRuyter; Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, Cincinnatus; St. Stephen’s, Marathon; St. Patrick’s, Whitney Point and the O’Heron Newman Center, Cortland.
According to Sister Laura, her ministry involves invigorating the liturgy in the parishes she is helping.
“By virtue of our baptism — and this is big — the Constitutional of Sacred Liturgy calls us to a full, conscious act of participation in the liturgy. That’s our goal, above all else,” she said.
According to those she has worked with, Sister Laura’s meetings and feedback have had a profound effect on the manner in which they participate in the liturgy.
“She’s already made a huge impact, listening to us, offering her expertise and her leadership,” said Maryanne Marr, who is the Confirmation coordinator for St. Lawrence and St. Patrick as well as the liturgical commissioner at the former.
Music and liturgy have been at the core of Sister Laura’s activities throughout her career. After completing her undergraduate work in music education at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, she obtained her master’s in music education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. After the Crane School, she went on to receive her master’s in liturgical music from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
She has served as the music director in both the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses and has been responsible for liturgical ministries at St. John the Evangelist Parish, New Hartford, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Liverpool.
After a stint serving on the Province Leadership Team for her congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, she arrived at Marathon Sept. 26 and began her ministry the weekend of Oct. 1.
“Just working with her has lifted us out of the routine and we’re all working at a higher level now,” said St. Mary’s director of music Barb Pauline. “She’s been a really good influence to inspire us in liturgy.”
Marr first met Sister Laura in 2000 when she was teaching an introduction to liturgy course.
“Her love for liturgy and her enthusiasm turned us on and she was the inspiration for us to become
involved in liturgy,” Marr said.
“Music and liturgy are my passion,” Sister Laura said.
When she first arrived in the Cortland PCA, she agreed to attend two Masses at each parish as well as at the Newman Center. Her first series of visits were informal and she used them to gauge the liturgy overall.
“The first time my observation would be informal and I cast a wide net to catch everything: environment, atmosphere, the people, etc,” she said.
The second round of visits was more formal as Sister Laura composed a written report regarding the liturgy at each Mass.
During the week between Masses, Sister Laura met with pastors and pastoral administrators, as well as music directors.
“My posture was that of listening,” she said. “What brought them to where they are, where they thought they were now and in what way I could be a help to them.”
During Advent she offered a presentation for the Cortland PCA which helped improve her visibility among the parishes and also helped make her more accessible.
Sister Laura sees herself as a catalyst for the liturgy rather than one who must micromanage its execution in the Cortland PCA. She sees herself as a conduit that should inspire others in their liturgical practices.
“I’m a resource, primarily,” she said. “I don’t have to do any of it. There are other worker bees, other people doing ministry who are responsible for the music and the liturgy in all of these places.”
Sometimes, when a special celebration is being planned, a parishioner will call Sister Laura for advice, but she does not need to be involved in every phase of the project.
Many parishioners from the Cortland County area had attended her workshop when she served as liturgical minister for the diocese. When she saw that many of those who had attended her workshops were increasing their roles in their respective parishes, she was drawn to the area.
“Part of the reason why I came here and why I said yes to the invitation was I saw that the seeds I had planted in my ministry in those years have grown and flourished here because I had taught liturgy courses in Truxton and DeRuyter and Homer,” she said. “People have participated in my workshops over the years in my office as the director of liturgy. Now they’re in leadership roles in their parishes. That excited me. So the potential of doing more of that gave me the encouragement to say yes. The model is totally new.”
Father John Fenlon is the pastor at St. Mary’s and the pastoral administrator at St. Lawrence. He believes that the model Sister Laura is developing could help other areas in the diocese.
“I think this is an excellent example for other parts of the diocese and it puts forth the best we have to offer,” he said. “We share the expense and we share the benefits. We have a very active cluster here and I think this is one of the happiest projects we’ve done.”