Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena

A Parish of the Archdiocese of New York served by the Dominican Friars

September 26, 2015

On Study and Normalcy – Pastor’s Reflection (September 27, 2015)

I write to you on the Tuesday before the Holy Father’s visit. I expect that by the time you read these lines we will all be looking for some normalcy in our city. Normalcy connotes a lack of commotion and the presence of familiarity. But it also confers the space to make sense of things.  Let me wrap these sentiments in liturgical colors and say that the long “green” days give us a chance to receive into ourselves the intensity of a “white” and “purple” day, or not. We have all lived through a momentous event, and we now have a choice. We can take time and ponder what it means to perceive so closely the universality of the Church, or we can scurry off to the next experience.

This week, I ask us; how do we take in what happens to us? Do we consume events in the manner of food or drink, or do we let them teach us? Of course, we live in New York, a city which condenses great experiences into brief moments, in small spaces. In such a place, happenings can provide a steady diet of stimulation and distraction. So, we finish seeing the Pope and then we are off to savor Antarctic nouvelle cuisine on offer in Far Rockaway. But when do we sit and ask what events mean, or take the time to perceive how they have affected us?

If I seek a spiritual life, I must leave some time empty, for reflection, reaction, and contemplation. I must consider. I must change. I must marvel at what lies beyond my changing.

In our parish we stand back before the extraordinary events of our merger. Last week’s inaugural celebration summed up in its movements all that we have been through. Shared worship and shared fellowship have begun to happen, and now it will be for us to discern for what purpose God has arranged it so. But first, I must thank all those whose hands and voices made Sunday’s Morning Prayer, Rosary Procession, and Solemn Mass speak so eloquently and clearly of God’s presence in our community, as Initiator, as Companion, as Goal. The generosity of so many points to a deeper, broader, community emerging from the challenges of merger, and this community will surely be His work.

Dominicans use study in normal time to comprehend extraordinary time. The relation of study to normalcy is so important that it is symbiotic. We use the normal for study, but study also fosters the normal. By its nature, study generates equilibrium and perspective. I propose that the spirit of study can help our new parish find its new normal and live in it comfortably.

The value of normal time shines forth when it is taken away. If we glimpsed a new normal coming to us last Sunday, the normal many of us knew at St. Vincent Ferrer will recede irrevocably with the departure, next week, of our beloved Pat Keegan.

It would be fair to say that for over three decades Pat has been the normal for the Friars, Sisters, and Laity who made up St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. Pat knows everybody, she can find anything, and she can make any setting lovely. Her good sense and discretion have steered eight Pastors away from sure disaster, and her courage has sustained the initiative of us all. In Pat, the whole parish has found an indefatigable companion.

Here I would offer my own testimony. As a first-time Pastor, I know that I could not have managed without Pat’s encouragement and her candor. Her prudence, her sense of proportion, and her charity have tought pastoral ministry more thoroughly and move lovingly than any tome.  I can never be grateful enough for all this pedagogy.

In light of the foregoing, I for one must rely once more on her wisdom: if she says its time, its time. So we will press on. In God’s own way, this change must bring new growth for Pat and for us.

I hope that those of you who know Pat will stop by the Priory on Monday evening, September 28, between 6 and 8 PM to wish Pat well. Loving hands will have something prepared for you to eat and drink.



Fr. Walter

September 19, 2015

Procession – Pastor’s Reflection (September 20, 2015)

This Sunday’s inaugural Mass for our new parish will feature a procession from St. Vincent’s where we will celebrate Morning Prayer, to St. Catherine of Siena where we will celebrate Mass.  The movement of the group through the neighborhood will make a powerful statement of our Community’s presence to anyone who might be astir at that early hour for New York on a Sunday.

But our shared movement will speak more loudly and eloquently to us. To move together in any common purpose is to discover a heightened solidarity.  Processions in faith go further, because they make tangible for a moment the movement of the faithful toward God. From the moment of our baptism we started walking, and all along we have shared the journey. We move intimately in the procession of generations that is our family. Our seniors represent continuity and constancy until they step across the horizon, and we hear the crying of the babies behind us. By analogy, we take a place in the Church’s pilgrimage through time, marveling that St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, and all the others who have crossed the last frontier retain a living connection to those of us who trudge along behind them.

The image of a procession conjures something well-defined and choreographed.  Real life though orchestrates something far less orderly.  On Sunday I think we will move as a free-form crowd behind our cross, and that will tell the neighborhood everything. In the last four months, the wind of the Holy Spirit has blown us together and placed us on a new homeward route. The experience possesses the sense of commotion that must have accompanied Pentecost and it is far from over.  Yet, as then, God animates, keeping us in motion toward Him along pathways traced by His love and not by our sensibilities.

So we fall into a place among the crowd as it sets out for the next way station on its journey.  “Procession” offers a way to understand Sunday morning, a way to conceive of our merger, and a way to enter into life.

I hope that you may also be carried along into the crowd of Parish Study.  We aim to tackle all this newness through a process of learning, reflection and study.  On Tuesdays at 7 PM we will address carefully and candidly the question, “who are we?”  Who are we as Catholic Christians gathered in a Dominican parish in a secular city?  Why do we continue in this way of worship and fellowship? What good word do we have for the great crowd surrounding us on all sides.  Please join us this Tuesday, September 22, at 7 PM in the Parish Hall at St. Vincent Ferrer to begin this shared enterprise. In October, meetings shift to St. Catherine’s.

The Holy Father’s arrival will set in motion crowds of Christians and crowds of the curious. May we as good contemplative students look beyond the human spectacle of the multitude and perceive the longing it carries with it.  May the Servant of the Servants of God have the grace to speak to the heart of the crowd.  What he begins this week may our new parish continue in its evangelical life

The hardest part of walking in a procession organized by the Spirit is that we do not get to stay in step with our companions.  Grappling with the way people move in and out of our lives provides a lifetime project of sanctification. Our community has had ample opportunity for this exercise in recent weeks, but now we must grapple some more.

37 years ago Pat Keegan took her place in the procession with the Friars, Sisters, and People of St. Vincent Ferrer.  Ever since, she has walked with us, and her discretion, prudence, and graciousness have kept us all moving forward.  Pat’s ministry of welcome, encouragement, and consolation have provided the tune to which we have all walked. Now, however, Pat sees that her path is taking a different direction.  After much prayer and thought, she has decided it is time to begin a new chapter of life.

I, for one, cannot imagine St. Vincent Ferrer, or even my day, without Pat’s presence. The procession teaches though!  I may not claim as mine the companion given to me as a gift.  I can be sad at losing Pat, or I can be amazed at the gift of us having had Pat for so long.  Humanly speaking, many of us will do some of both.

This week, please take the time to come give Pat your good wishes.  Also, come to wish her well on the evening of Monday, September 28, from 6 to 8 PM in the parlors of the Priory.

Please pray for our Parish, our City, and our Archdiocese as we traverse a singular week in this season of change.



Fr. Walter

September 12, 2015

Welcome #2 – Pastor’s Reflection (September 13, 2015)

If August and September 2016 continue to yield tumult at this rate, the Holidays will underwhelm. Some weeks these lines receive the luxury of meditation; at other times, they reflect the press of business. Luckily, what follows is happy business.

This bulletin has the happy task of welcoming Fr. Joseph Allen, O.P. to St. Catherine’s Priory and to the staff of the new parish. Fr. Allen has served as an energetic Pastor of our parishes in New Haven, Ct. and Youngstown, OH. His capacity for practical affairs stands on a par with his zeal for the ministry, and so we stand to benefit doubly. Graciously he has already accepted the office of Procurator (Economic Administrator) in our Priory. Please do greet Fr. Allen and make him welcome.

Both of our Priories have new Subpriors. Fr John Farren has accepted the office at St. Catherine’s, while Fr. Albert Paretsky has taken it on at St. Vincent’s. These men take the place of the Prior in his absence and this matters since both communities have priors who work outside the home. Fr. Jordan Turano, Prior of St. Vincent Ferrer, has become the Chaplain for Molloy College on Long Island. Yours Truly has a shorter but more constant commute in the neighborhood. Dominican life gains its stability from the sharing of authority within the community, and so we need to express gratitude to all the Brothers who accept such an active role in the common project.

St. Vincent Ferrer Priory also welcomes Fr. John Allard, O.P. Fr. Allard serves in our Department of Theology at Providence College. This semester he will be here in New York to be part of the ministry of the global Order to the United Nations. I hope you will be able to benefit from the insights of his preaching.

On Monday, September 14, St. Catherine’s will welcome Sr. Padraic Mary McGuinness, O.P. to the front office. Many St. Vincent Ferrer regulars will be happy to greet Sister’s return from Connecticut. Her coming heralds new stability in our parish administration. We are most grateful to Sister for making herself available so generously.


Tickets to the Papal Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Apparently we will receive two batches of tickets for the Papal Mass. St. Vincent Ferrer has been allocated 16 tickets and St. Catherine of Siena has been allocated 10 tickets. Distribution of these has been left up to me, so here are my rules.

Tickets will be distributed in separate lotteries for each of the former parishes.

One pair of St. Catherine’s tickets will be set aside for a married couple.
Two pair of St. Vincent’s tickets will be set aside for married couples.
Please register for these as a couple if you satisfy the conditions below.

One St. Catherine’s ticket and two St. Vincent’s tickets will be set aside for Dominican Religious in our parish. The St. Catherine’s ticket will be available for St. Catherine’s Priory and Dominican Academy, while the St. Vincent’s tickets will be available for St. Vincent Ferrer Priory and Convent. (N.B. There is a different ticket for Priests to Concelebrate the Mass. Dominicans, please register for these tickets as a Dominican, if you can meet the logistical conditions below.)

These drawings will be made first. If these tickets are not claimed, they will be put in the general pot.

You may register for this lottery if

  • You are a REGISTERED PARISHIONER, that is, your name appears in the roster of the appropriate former parish.
  • You are a CURRENT EMPLOYEE of the parish.
  • You can make the approximately six-hour commitment. The Mass is at 6:30 PM and you will need to arrive between 2:00 and 3:00 PM. You cannot depart until the Holy Father has left the area.
  • You have the ability to get to Madison Square Garden via your feet or the subway, to wait on line, and to deal with the crowds.
  • You understand that, as of now, we do not have these tickets in hand. If there is a glitch and these tickets do not arrive, we have no recourse.
  • You will assure us that you intend to use the ticket personally should you win.

You must register in person or by phone for the appropriate lottery, during office hours. Registration will open on Tuesday, September 15, and close on Thursday, September 18.

Register with Rachel Miller at St. Vincent’s from 9 AM to 1 PM, and from 2 PM to 5 PM.
Register with Sr. Padraic Mary at St. Catherine’s from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Drawing will take place after the Inaugural Mass of our Parish, on Sunday, September 20. You must be present to claim the ticket. We will keep drawing until the tickets are claimed.

(Morning Prayer at St. Vincent’s at 11:15 AM, Rosary Procession, and Mass at around Noon at St. Catherine’s)

Good Luck!

Fr. Walter

September 05, 2015

Welcome – Pastor’s Reflection (September 6, 2015)

We stand on the cusp of the true new year.  Once the rites of Labor Day have been observed it will be time to get going.  For us, the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena, this will mean taking up the work of growth.  We will grow profoundly through the work of welcoming new people and new situations.  This Sunday at St Catherine’s we will be welcoming the talent and energy of James Wetzel as Interim Organist and Choirmaster.  From here I will let James introduce himself.

Pittsburgh-born James D. Wetzel is the newly-appointed Director of Music and Organist of the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena and from 2010-2015 was Organist and Choirmaster of the Church of Saint Agnes on 43rd Street. James is the Assistant Conductor for the Greenwich Choral Society in Connecticut, accompanist for the New Choral Society in Scarsdale, and Assisting Organist at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine where he formerly served as Organ Scholar under Bruce Neswick.  Also, he is an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College and he teaches at the Saint Thomas Choir School.

As an organist, recent highlights include performing at the Berkshire Choral Festival and with the Collegiate Chorale, the Orchestra of Saint Lukes, the American Symphony Orchestra, and the American Classical Orchestra.  He is a board member of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Catholic Artists Society.

 Mr. Wetzel earned a bachelors degree in organ performance from Juilliard under Paul Jacobs and a masters degree and a post-graduate professional studies certificate in choral conducting from Manhattan School of Music under Kent Tritle. He also studied privately with Donald K. Fellows and Robert Page. Additionally, James spent a year studying Early Christianity and Apologetics at Columbia University.

I hope you will all make James welcome in our midst and that his craft will serve our development in worship over the next year.  A chance to welcome and to grow will come in a week’s time on Monday, September 14, when the Church celebrates the great feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We will honor the day with a Solemn Mass at St. Catherine’s at 6:30 PM.  Highlights are;

Mass for Double Choir – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Christus factus est – Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
O salutaris hostia (1857) – Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Upcoming Sundays will give me the chance to introduce you to more new people in these pages. Meanwhile, let me lay out for you our September and its opportunities for growth.

On Thursday, September 10, at (time) Fr. Jonah Pollock will begin sessions of the RCIA at St. Catherine’s. If you are feeling the call to begin or complete your initiation into Christ, maybe now is the tine to take the step.

After the Saturday 5:15 Mass and all Sunday Masses at St. Catherine’s on the weekend of September 12-13 our Catechist, Lisa Harrelson, will be available to register young people for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (ages 3-6 and 6-9) and for the Ignite Youth Ministry program (ages 10-14).

At 4 PM that same afternoon, September 13, Mary Schwarz will begin the RCIA sessions at St. Vincent Ferrer. Again, here is another exceptional opportunity to grow in faith and come into intimacy with the Risen Lord.

On September 14, please join us at St. Catherines to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross with a Solemn Mass at 6:30 PM.

If you would like to enroll your child in the religious education program at St. Vincent Ferrer, please come to the Priory on September 16, 17, or 18, from 4 PM to 7 PM. Dolores Getcher, our Coordinator, will be happy to register you.  The curriculum for this program is available at the guard stand in the vestibule of the church.

On Sunday, September 20, at the 10 AM Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer, Dolores Getcher will resume her ministry of Bible Storytelling for Children. They, and she, will have a wonderful time.

On the same day, September 20, we will celebrate the inaugural Mass of our new parish.  We will begin with Morning Prayer at St. Vincent Ferrer at 1:15 AM and process. saying the Rosary, to St. Catherines for Mass. Please join for a day of celebration, commitment and witness.

Parish Study will begin this year on Tuesday, September 22, with a year-long program that will provide the core for a whole plan of parish renewal.  Details will follow next week.

Save the date for Friday, October 2, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, when we will have one of our lovely and intimate Masses at the High Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer.  Mark Bani and his quartet of singers will help us entrust ourselves anew to to the ministry of our heavenly companions.

Sunday, October 4 brings us back around to our annual celebration of Confirmation with Bishop Gerald Walsh at the 12 PM Solemn Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer.

Shortly thereafter, on Wednesday, October 7, follows the splendid Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  We will honor it with a Sung Mass and Procession at 6 PM at St. Vincent Ferrer.

May the days of this long weekend offer us all a true rest, one that leaves us grateful for the work that has come our way.



Fr. Walter