A notebook of Sister Laura Bufano’s confirms that planning a bishop’s ordination involves, as she says, “so many details and components.” Written on blocks on her desk are the words “relax,” “create,” and “pause.” She says: “When we’re down to the wire: resilience; we need resilience, creativity, flexibility, and patience.” (Sun photo | Katherine Long)

Sister Laura Bufano explains complex but joyful planning process


By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Everyone can feed off the bishop-elect’s motto.

Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, was looking for inspiration when she was asked to serve, with Msgr. Timothy S. Elmer, as one of the co-chairs of the Ordination Planning Committee.

She latched onto “In the Name of Jesus,” the motto adopted by Bishop-elect Douglas J. Lucia. For even more guidance, she reflected on and prayed with the words of “Radiating Christ,” the prayer chosen by the bishop-elect for his ordination prayer card.

Written by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the prayer says in part: “Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.”

If “shining” means intensely planning, cooperating, and communicating, then Sister Laura has the prayer down.

Further, she drew ideas from the Scripture readings selected by Bishop-elect Lucia for the ordination: Isaiah 61:1-3, Acts 3:1-10, and Matthew 5:13-16. To assist the choir director in choosing a psalm setting, she offered the option of Psalms 100, 96, or 117.

Sister Laura’s designated area of responsibility on the committee includes planning and coordinating the liturgy for the ordination and evening prayer. Co-chair Msgr. Elmer’s charge is logistics, such as coordinating parking, ushers, and security. Fifteen additional members on the committee are responsible for coordinating a variety of tasks: communications, tickets, hospitality to name a few.

It takes complex planning and Sister Laura realized she had to add an amendment to the guiding principles that she shared with the committee: “Be as joyful as we can be. Laugh and have fun. It’s hard work, so we’ve got to be joyful, with the joy of the gospel.”

The planners respect Bishop-elect Lucia’s preferences, Sister Laura said, and recognize that the ordination ceremony is about “all of us celebrating together as church.”

In 1995, Sister Laura did not have chairperson duties, but she was a committee member for the ordination of Bishop James M. Moynihan. At that time, she was the director of the diocesan Office of Liturgy; now, she is the director of the Office of Pastoral Leadership and associate director for Pastoral Planning.

“There are a lot of people who are doing a lot of things to make this happen,” Sister Laura said last week. “We have to think of all the elements: hospitality, invitations, transportation, the reception after the ordination — all those things are being coordinated by different members of our diocesan staff who serve on the planning committee.”

For example, Sue Wuerthner, administrative assistant in the Office of Risk Management, made a special terry-cloth amice to put over the bishop-elect’s vestments to protect them when the holy chrism is poured onto his head during the ordination rite.

And Barbara Messina, Ph.D., director of leadership development and mission effectiveness for the Catholic Schools Office and a good seamstress, made a special corporal (cloth on which the chalice and paten are placed) that will cover the whole altar. Because this is a large celebration, more than the usual number of chalices and ciboria will be used.

On Aug. 31, the florist came to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Laura said, “just to see where things will be placed and how it will affect other pieces.”

On July 29, Stickley provided the three chairs that the furniture company is lending to the diocese. At the beginning of the ordination rite, the chairs will be placed in front of the altar for Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, and Bishop Terry R. LaValley.

The candles that the congregation will see in the cathedral will all display Bishop-elect Lucia’s crest — “very, very cool,” Sister Laura said. The Cathedral Candle Company initiated this beautiful and creative tradition for Bishop Moynihan’s ordination in 1995; it continued for Bishop Cunningham’s installation in 2009.

The key to all the planning, Sister Laura said, “is really elegant simplicity, collaborating  and communicating … big-time.”

She added: “So everyone has to think: All right, who else do I need to be communicating with? If I make a decision about the liturgy, who needs to know about it? Whom will it impact? With whom do I need to have a conversation? Ideally, no one is operating in isolation. Subcommittees and networks needed to be formed, and a lot of intense work takes place between meetings.”

The planners have met each Wednesday for an hour since the June 4 announcement that Bishop-elect Lucia will succeed Bishop Cunningham. The committee has directed all questions for the bishop-elect to one person, Chancellor Danielle Cummings, “and this has served us well,” Sister Laura said.

Sister Laura also worked with the cathedral’s music director, Alan Lynch, to plan the music for the celebration, and with the cathedral’s maintenance staff about all the details related to the space and setup.

“The music will be joyful,” Sister Laura said, “and one of the things that the bishop-elect requested was that the music be accessible to the people — that the people would be able to sing and enter into the music.”

She is also collaborating with Father Christopher R. Seibt, who will be coordinating all the servers and those who will serve as masters of ceremonies for certain parts of the celebration. Father Seibt is running the rehearsals; he has prepared detailed instructions for all who are involved in any aspect of the liturgy.

In planning the liturgy, Sister Laura and Father Seibt follow the “Rite of Ordination of One Bishop” that is included in an impressive book with red and black ink called The Roman Pontifical. “There’s a structure; it needs to be followed,” Sister Laura said.

The ordination rite will take place in front of the altar. After the Gospel, the congregation will sing the Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit). When it is time for the congregation to stand and sing the Litany of the Saints (to which the bishop-elect has added the names of several saints), Bishop-elect Lucia will be prostrate on the floor with his head on the diocesan crest.

“I like to think that every nook and cranny of the cathedral will be full of all the saints and those who have gone before us in faith,” Sister Laura said. She wants all of the people who are physically present to “feel like they’re a part of the celebration.”

The colloquy among the clerics in the sanctuary at the beginning of the liturgy will include Msgr. Elmer saying to Cardinal Dolan: “Most Reverend Father, the church of Syracuse asks you to ordain this priest, Douglas John Lucia, to the responsibility of the episcopate.”

Cardinal Dolan: “Do you have a mandate from the Apostolic See?”

Monsignor Elmer: “Yes, we have.”

Cardinal Dolan: “Let it be read.”

Then the letter will be shown to those gathered in the sanctuary and also to the congregation, and the delegate for the apostolic nuncio will go to the pulpit and read that apostolic letter appointing Bishop-elect Lucia.

Sister Laura’s planners have managed to have fun despite the complexities.

“It’s profound,” she said, “it’s profound.”

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