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

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

June 28, 2016

New Mass Schedule

Below is our new Mass Schedule, which begins on July 2, 2016:

Mass and Confessions at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer

869 Lexington Ave (at 66th), New York, NY, 10065

Saturday Vigil: 6:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am, 12:00 pm, 6:00 pm
Weekdays: 8:00 am, 12:10 pm, 6:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am

Weekdays: 5:20–5:50 pm
(Wednesdays: 7:45–8:30 pm)
Saturday: 5:00 pm–5:50 pm

Wednesdays: 7:30–8:30 pm

Mass and Confessions at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena

411 East 68th Street, New York, NY, 10065

Saturday Vigil: 4:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am, 5:00 pm
Weekdays: 7:00 am, 5:15 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am

Saturday: 3:30–3:50 pm
Monday through Friday: 4:40–5:05 pm

Thursdays: 4:00–5:00 pm

June 25, 2016

FYI – Pastor’s Reflection (June 26, 2016)

As you know by now, our new Mass schedule takes effect next weekend. To borrow a term from retail, this is the “soft opening.” We make this change at the most quiet stretch of the cycle so as to work out the kinks. As we begin, some explanations will be in order.

From now until September we are without choirs, and so we will employ just two forms of celebration. We will celebrate “Low Mass” twice each weekend. On Saturday at 4 pm at St. Catherine’s and on Sunday morning at 8 am at St. Vincent’s the Mass will be recited without music. Hopefully we will help those who profit from a quiet Mass, and those benefit a
40 – 45 minute liturgy.

The remaining Liturgies will take the form of the “Sung Mass.” When everything is up and running in the fall, this format will prevail at the 6 pm Masses on Saturday and Sunday at St. Vincent Ferrer. Our aim here is a quiet, contemplative experience of the liturgy. We direct it to those who found our liturgies to be too loud and too long. We plan for these Masses to last about 50 minutes. We seek to engage the congregation in two ways.


I.     Singing the Ordinary of the Mass

The Ordinary of the Mass refers to its fixed texts. Many of us could recite, Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, and Agnus Dei in our sleep. Singing and saying these texts, along with responses such as, “And with your Spirit,” constitutes the most important part of the “Liturgy” (work) of the People at Mass. At Sung Mass the cantor and organ will quietly support the Faithful in carrying out their duty to sing the Ordinary of the Mass. By custom the Creed is not sung but recited, except at Solemn Mass.

From now until Christmas we will sing the Ordinary in the form printed in the Roman Missal itself. There are two reasons for this. First, this setting of the Mass is simple. If the congregation truly can internalize this form, it will be able to sing it unaccompanied on weekday special occasions when the organ might not be played. Second, to use this setting connects us firmly to the universal Church. The Missal setting of the Mass can thus become a liturgical lingua franca, so that we people are gathered from many places for celebrations, there is something for everyone to sing.  As a matter of fact, the Missal setting corresponds to one of the simple Latin Masses and so can facilitate international celebrations.


II.     Listening to and praying with the Propers of the Mass

The Propers of a given Mass are those texts assigned specifically to it. The readings from Scripture offer a familiar example of “proper” material. Each Mass also possesses texts meant to accompany three of its essential movements, the priest’s entrance and walk to the altar (representing all of us), the presentation of the gifts, and the movement of the congregation to receive communion. These texts are called antiphons. In both churches, we already recite the entrance antiphon and the communion antiphon at low mass. In the ancient tradition of the church these texts are sung. Not only do they accompany a movement, but they comment on its significance.

At sung Mass the cantor will sing these texts and the Ministers and People will pray along. In other forms of the Mass, the antiphons, or “propers,” will comprise part of the work (liturgy) of the choir.


III.     Variations on a Theme

1.  The 10 am Mass at St. Catherine’s will evolve into the “Family Mass” for our parish. In view of the more robust character we seek in this celebration, we begin now to include a hymn of thanksgiving after communion. Commentary on the place and role of the hymn at Mass will be forthcoming.

2.  The Noon Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer will develop into the Solemn Mass for the Parish. Therefore, we will go ahead and include now in its celebration, the hymn of thanksgiving after communion and the marian antiphon after the conclusion of Mass.

3.  The 5 pm Mass at St. Catherine’s on Sunday afternoon will be a Sung Mass, yet more contemplative than the others, and will be led by a cantor alone.

However, all of the foregoing has the nature of a plan, and you know what happens to plans.  Please pray for the parish as we make these changes, and please pray for your fellow parishioners, that each may find a congenial place and time for Mass.



Fr. Walter

June 18, 2016

Fathers’ Day – Pastor’s Reflection (June 19, 2016)

I write you from Providence where we Friars are about to hold an assembly of our whole St. Joseph’s Province, our region of the Order. In the life of our Province such gatherings happen rarely. In this century we held one in 2005 to celebrate our bicentennial, and another in summer of 2009 to face the ramifications of the Great Recession. The financial and logistical challenges of gathering so many deter the overuse of these events. However, we are blessed to have in Providence College a leafy, tech enhanced setting in which two hundred men can live communally for three days.

This year we gather to celebrate the 800th anniversary of our Order. In these days leading up to Fathers’ Day weekend, we will be celebrating fatherhood and its absence.

At their best, Fathers’ Day and Mothers’ Day affirm our roots. We take a fresh look at the man and woman whose perspective on life formed us and we reflect on how we have applied their principles in circumstances they could not have foreseen. I have discerned that the greatest beauty of parenthood is ordinary people doing their best at one of life’s principal tasks, raising a child. Herein lies the freedom to accept the loveliness of my own ordinariness.

Here in Providence the Fatherhood of St. Dominic gathers us to receive again his ancient legacy and to apply it in a world increasingly unfamiliar to us, let alone him. That heritage abides in several timeless principles;

  • A life lived in common, with a complete sharing of resources
  • A life centered daily around shared liturgical prayer.
  • A life sustained by study as its principal work.
  • A life dependent on benefactors and the wages given for preaching, with an avoidance of endowments.
  • A life of mobility (itineracy) at the service of the Gospel.
  • A life governed by elected superiors, elected assemblies, and the evolving legislation they produce.
  • A life in which the structures and obligations of daily life yield to the needs of the preaching ministry.

Dominic specified another key principle, not in writing but by his behavior, and this has made all the difference. Having articulated his vision of the Order to his Brothers and to the Church in the person of Pope Honorius III, he then surrendered control of it. When the Brothers gathered and voted, Dominic followed their interpretation rather than his own.

From this moment on, the Order has always been in charge of itself. St. Dominic’s life and preferences do not bind us as some kind of template. From the beginning, we were formed by him to act without him. The fatherhood of St. Dominic is non-fatherhood.

A Fathers’ Day gathering provides the joy seeing fatherhood passed from generation to generation – grandfather, father, son. Among us fatherhood stopped with St. Dominic, and ever since his death, we have all been brothers in relationship and in governance. This stands in contrast to the monastic spirit in which the Abbot or Abbess takes a parental place in the life of the community.

Among us, superiors serve a term in office and then resume their place in the group. From this a fraternal culture emerges and fosters the development of communally held values and tastes. While, as you know, each Brother retains his individuality, he does so in dialog with the personality of the Community. Each Brother comes to realize that he has been formed by the community, as a religious he has been parented by it. At the same time his preaching and his participation shape the development of the same community. In a real way he parents a community culture that his younger brothers will inherit.

The life of fraternity comes as a gift that includes, shapes, and liberates those who live it. It also imposes the discipline of non-dominance. Each of us must check himself from so imposing opinions and tastes upon the group that its freedom to develop is compromised. Even as a superior, a brother remains a contributor to something larger than himself. Living the fraternal life demands confidence in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the Brothers gathered. In this way the life we share at home becomes a witness to the world in which we minister.

It seems to me that if Dominican Friars are to minister successfully in a parish then the community of that parish should bear the same marks. How can we be evident as a community of brothers and sisters? Gifted Friars, Sisters, staff, and volunteers serve this community. They offer it talents, insights, and challenges proper to a given time. At the same time, they recognize it is for the community to receive these gifts and incorporate them into the rich store of its heritage. Each member of the group knows another will come after. The privilege is to have been gathered, to have abided for a time, and to have exchanged riches with one’s companions. To have been part of is the happiness of brothers and sisters.



Fr. Walter


June 11, 2016

Improvisation – Pastor’s Reflection (June 12, 2016)

Since I arrived at St. Vincent’s six years ago I have taken a secret pleasure in celebrating the Solemn Mass at noon on Sunday. When the cantor announces the hymn I try not to hear what it is.  Rather, I listen to the improvisation and try to figure it out.  From the time the choir leaves the Friars’ Chapel until the moment when it reaches the front of the church and prepares to head down the main aisle, I count on Mark to improvise upon the hymn in his inimitable fashion.  By the time I turn the corner, he has revealed it to me, and I am singing away, but also thinking; “how did he get from that Point A to this Point B?” To me, Mark Bani’s skill as an organist makes clear the difference between learning to play a piece and grasping the inner genius of that piece. The improvisations manifest a closeted potential hidden behind something as regular and predictable as a hymn tune. That walk down the South Aisle of the church never ceases to yield insight into songs that have become deeply familiar through 30 years of exposure.

I wonder what improvisation has to teach us about life. If Mark can unlock new treasures in the familiar year after year, then does his creativity not invite us to unlock our own?  This singular skill of his shows with clarity how music can unlock the creative places in us that lie beneath words.

For twenty-three years Mark has helped people unpack the rich content of their deepest selves through his craft.  In his work the skill of the artist comes together with the devotion of the minister. Bringing this double gift, he has profoundly touched the lives of so many people, particularly at the hinge-moments of marriage and death. His gift is to be present just at the point where words ring trite, and to validate what people cannot say.

Surely, Mark has done this very service for me along the serpentine path of pastoral service. There have been many times when he has made the organ calm me down when a bride was late, or has helped me give last-minute shape to a homily that would not otherwise gel.  How is it that a person can cause such a vast mechanism to be so kind and considerate?

In the life of this parish, Mark’s reliability has proven a rock-solid pillar of our common life and has given the community remarkable stability through the tenures of six pastors. His work has played a defining role in the development of this parish.

In this time of transition ahead, let us pray that Mark will find in God and His providence the very gifts he has given so generously to others.



Fr. Walter


June 08, 2016

Mass Schedule for June 13 – June 18 (Provincial Assembly)

We Dominican Friars will be having an assembly in Providence from Tuesday, June 14 until Friday, June 17.  This will form part of celebration of our 800th anniversary.  The schedule for the week will be as follows:

Monday, June 13
Masses and Confessions as usual

Tuesday, June 14
7 AM                Mass at St. Catherine’s
8 AM                Mass at St. Vincent’s
12:10 PM         Communion Service at St. Vincent’s  (Deacon John Powers)
4:40 PM           Confessions at St. Catherine’s
5:15 PM           Mass at St. Catherine’s  (Rev. Martin Farrell, O.P.)

Wednesday, June 15
12:10 PM         Communion Service at St. Vincent’s
4:40 PM           Confessions at St. Catherine’s
5:15 PM           Mass at St. Catherine’s

Thursday, June 16
12:10 PM         Communion Service at St. Vincent’s
4:40 PM           Confessions at St. Catherine’s
5:15 PM           Mass at St. Catherine’s

Friday, June 17
12:10 PM         Communion Service at St. Vincent’s
4:40 PM           Confessions at St. Catherine’s
5:15 PM           Mass at St. Catherine’s
5:20 PM           Confessions at St. Vincent’s
6 PM                Mass at St. Vincent’s

Saturday, June 18
Masses and Confessions as usual


June 05, 2016

New Music Director

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

The Tenth Sunday of the Year

June 4, 2016


Dear Friends,

Below you will find my bulletin article for this Sunday. I hope that it will give a context to my choice for a new music director, which is also below. It became possible, and necessary, to announce this decision after the bulletin had gone to the printer.

The growth of a person thrills and upsets, all at the same time. When people pass from childhood to adolescence, their new independence excites and disturbs those who cooed over their infancy. I am proud that my parents have aged so well, but I am mad that they are old and decline to be depended upon in the ways I have taken for granted.

So it is with a group. A community of souls will not stay the same: its growth encourages and alarms at the same time. This past year has provoked us with an intimate experience of growth in the Church. In the call to make a new parish, the wind of the Holy Spirit energized and exhausted ordinary clergy and laity, refusing, as ever, to leave well enough alone. The merger has elicited our personal growth, or it has occasioned our withdrawal. Such inescapable forks in the road punctuate the history of the Church at all levels, and we have not been able to avoid this one.

This provocative growth of the Church shows up in liturgical music.  When it comes to what we sing at Mass, waves on the sea roil the waters of the pond. To understand our task in forming a new music program, it will profit us to survey the development of liturgical music in the Catholic Church in America since Vatican Council II.

It would be fair to say that at the implementation of the New Order for Mass (Novus Ordo) in 1970, the Catholic Church in America possessed only a tiny body of song in the vernacular, think of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.” Our only alternative at this point was to borrow. We can call this for our purposes, “the era of borrowing.” Those of a certain age can remember that “traditional” music drew upon the rich field of Protestant hymns. Think here of “We Gather Together,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” or “Amazing Grace.” By contrast, there were also “folk Masses” in which the musical idiom was claimed from the folk movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. In the 80’s and 90’s this latter style morphed into “contemporary.” When Catholic composers set their hand to the familiar texts of the Mass, such as the Gloria and Sanctus, they would draw on one or the other of these styles.

In both modes of borrowing, a large body of familiar texts emerged, along with real expertise of execution. Our liturgies at St. Vincent Ferrer represent the very best use of borrowing in the traditional sense. Thanks to Mark Bani’s extraordinary improvisations on the hymns, the Mass gains a setting of sonic splendor.

The reaction to borrowing came in the 90’s with what might be called the “era of recovery.” Younger clergy and musicians longed to draw directly on the Catholic tradition. From this came a new interest in the older form of the Mass and, concurrently, in Gregorian chant. So, for example, the Gregorian entrance chant might replace the entrance hymn that is now common, or it might be used as a prelude. Pope Benedict XVI’s permission to use the 1962 form of the Mass (Extraordinary Form) gave this moment great momentum. Over the last fifteen years, I have watched chant become more and more common, along with its luxuriant development, polyphony. I would say that what James Wetzel has been able to achieve this year at St. Catherine’s marks a high point in this trend, whose beginnings I witnessed as a seminarian twenty-five years ago.

Of course one cannot draw these lines too sharply. St. Vincent’s certainly has made use of Gregorian chant and polyphony, and St. Catherine’s has employed hymns; but there is a difference in the driving force of the liturgy. The important thing to say here is that in both places the liturgy has been carried out with great reverence and with an extraordinary use of resources.  In both places that priority of divine worship has been evident.

At this point the work of the liturgy requires synthesis: we need to harmonize its elements into a coherence of experience. Points of integration would be:

  • Pairing the music of the mass to its movements so that the rite retains the flow it should have.
  • Making sure those who participate comprehend what is sung, even if it is sung in Latin.
  • Safeguarding the participation of the Faithful at Mass both by speaking, singing, and listening.
  • Presenting the Roman Rite of the Mass so that its essential shape is clear to all involved.
  • Preserving the use of hymnody, which has given us a vocabulary of worship for half a century.
  • Keeping the balance between the human voice and instrumentation in the liturgy, so that individuals are able to sing and to hear each other sing.

This approach will:

  • Revitalize our implementation of the Second Vatican Council after a half century.
  • Harmonize with the preaching mission of the Friars.
  • Deepen the Community of the Parish.

Implementing this approach will place new catechetical demands on the clergy but also impose new tasks on the Director of Music. The faithful should perceive continuity with what has gone before but also recognize that an evolution in practice has occurred. Please pray for all who were involved in the work of finding a new director, particularly the applicants. It has been a grueling process, but one filled with insights. We

  • Surveyed the parish.
  • Developed a description of the position and published it to the parish.
  • Solicited applications.
  • Met with five applicants for a first interview.
  • Met with three applicants, whom we asked to play a variety of pieces on the organ and to teach us to sing a variety of texts.

All of our finalists were organ virtuosi, but with reference to the liturgical growth we seek, described above, we also need a teacher.  The post-Conciliar Liturgy treats the active participation of the faithful as a given and ours is in increasingly a culture of non-singers.  So the parish needs to make up the difference through its own teaching work, and the Director of Music ends up with a whole new sphere of activity.

It is after much prayer, deliberation, and taking of advice that I have concluded that James Wetzel has the skills we need at this time, and so I have engaged him to be the Music Director for the new parish.  He has accepted the position with the understanding that we will be asking him to take an approach to the liturgy that differs significantly from the mode of doing things at St Catherine’s over this past parish year.

This leads to me to say with personal regret that Mark Bani will now be moving on from St. Vincent Ferrer, where his stellar skills at the organ have dazzled people for almost a a quarter century.  Mark’s integral role in the development of St. Vincent Ferrer’s demands much further reflection and that will be forthcoming. For the moment, let me conclude with an important announcement.

Mark prefers to conclude his time at St. Vincent’s next weekend, June 11 and 12. He will have a word to say at each of the sung masses, and we will have a reception for him after the Noon Mass. I hope you can come offer your thanks and support. At the parish level we are committed to doing all that we can to assist Mark in this difficult transition.


Fr. Walter

June 01, 2016

Where From Here? – Pastor’s Reflection (May 29, 2016)

I cannot think of a time holding more gut level promise than Memorial Day. This weekend opens a vista of freedom. Somehow Summer grants us permission to alter rhythms otherwise de   rigeur.

The dispensations of the season address something deeper than human weakness. From the shore, the Great Meadow, and the barbecue comes a message to be heeded by the wise; real leisure affirms work, and relaxation makes sense of discipline. In the  time of rest, I perceive the gift of my  labor.

If this wisdom applies in our personal lives, it also speaks to our communal needs. Fair to say, the rigors of merger did not allow our parish much of a summer in 2015, and I hope we may address that deficit this year. For us, summer of 2016 will not offer a cessation of work, but the sabbatical that comes from different work. The cycle of meetings and gatherings goes into hiatus so that we can ponder the full array of needed growth stretching across our horizon.

All of our Summer projects will aim at making us more truly a part of Christ’s Body, the Church. In the quiet of the months ahead, we   seek

  • To move forward in divine worship. Growth comes in chapters, each suited to time and circumstance. Our worship has been supported invaluably through the experience of instrumental and choral virtuosity. Our organists and choristers have set a high bar for us to match as we now develop the vocal and auditory participation of the People at Mass. The work of shared listening and singing will not fail to deepen the Community of the Parish in the substantive ways that matter. Growth like this never rejects what has gone before but relies on it for a

In this context, let me update you on the Music Director search. We posted our job description and received around fifty applications. Of these we interviewed five in a conventional way. We then invited three back to play for us, and also to teach us several pieces of music. It now falls to me to decide this matter.

  • To implement, beginning July 2, our new schedule of Masses. This united plan of worship offers us the potential of becoming more corporately united as a parish. It also gives us the opportunity    to work in concert with St. John Nepomucene and   so manifest the Body of Christ in this   This is a real, heaven sent chance   not to be defensive, territorial, or fearful, but to recognize that the conscious pursuit of the common good opens us to God’s blessings. All around us the world becomes more connected; for the Church  this means that culture and technology now help her grow into the fullness of herself as a communion of souls.
  • To follow through on our registration drive. This will mean marshaling the electronic data that will allow us to be in better contact with the whole parish. We also look for the opportunity to reach  out to those who indicated special interests on the registration form. If you have not yet registered, please become more part of us by doing
  • To develop, as previously mentioned, a plan for the governance of the parish, so that we can give final form to the work of our Parish Trustees, Finance Council, and Parish
  • To develop a comprehensive plan for religious formation in the parish. We have a lot of riches here waiting to be synthesized into a life-giving whole.
  • To prepare a celebration of the Jubilee of the Dominican Order. On December 22 of this year the Order turns 800. This fall will offer our parish the chance to honor the occasion by enhancing its Dominican character. What better way to do this than by a thoroughgoing examination of our life.    As we go forward we want to make sure that our parish governance, patterns of celebration, modes of study, and style of socializing remain firmly  attached to the rich and challenging heritage that nourished the parish from its beginning. The Dominican way of life is shared by Friars,   cloistered nuns, active sisters, and laywomen and men. It takes a distinctive perspective on the Gospel from St. Dominic, and applies into all of the Church’s states of life. It will not fail to foster a balanced, communitarian, and simple common life for

I usually take a summer sabbatical from these letters. But this summer I will stay at the task of keeping you duly informed of developments in all of the foregoing.


Summer Peace!

Fr. Walter