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

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

August 27, 2016

Musical Musings (August 28, 2016)

It is with the deepest gratitude that I have this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is James D. Wetzel, and I am the parish’s Director of Music and Organist. I grew up in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a small town on the Allegheny River north of Pittsburgh known for its country club that occasionally hosts the U.S. Open Championship. Pittsburgh’s Saint Paul Cathedral was my spiritual home and its music director, Donald Fellows, was my first organ teacher.

In 2005, I moved to New York to attend The Juilliard School, from which I received a bachelor’s degree in organ performance studying under Paul Jacobs. As part of Juilliard’s exchange program, I spent a year reading early
Christianity and apologetics at Columbia University. I went on to earn a master’s degree and a professional studies
certificate in conducting from Manhattan School of Music under Kent Tritle. My master’s thesis was on Catholic
polyphony of 20th century England.

For the last year, I was the interim Organist and Choirmaster of Saint Catherine of Siena, during which time I had the privilege of getting to know many of you. It also allowed me to witness first-hand the initial stages of the merger; and I hope that that experience has sensitized me to the community’s needs as we embark on this next chapter together.

Before Saint Catherine’s, I served as the Organist and Choirmaster of midtown’s Church of Saint Agnes from
2010-2015. In addition to its busy liturgical schedule, Saint Agnes’ choir sang for a number of special events, including a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in Carnegie Hall with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. During my undergraduate studies, I was the assistant organist at Saint Malachy’s – The Actors’ Chapel and later, the organ scholar of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, working under Bruce Neswick.

As a concert organist, I have performed with the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Classical Orchestra, the Collegiate Chorale, the Oratorio Society of New York, and the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s, the last for a forthcoming recording of Kurt Weill’s oratorio The Road of Promise. This season, I am looking forward to local recitals at Saint John the Divine, Newark’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and Saint Mary the Virgin in Times Square to which you are all most welcome (dates will be announced in advance). Additionally, I have been the assistant conductor for the Greenwich Choral Society in Connecticut since 2010 and teach piano at the Saint Thomas Choir School. I also taught for several years as an adjunct lecturer in Hunter College’s music department. I am on the board of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Catholic Artists Society and am a member of the New York Purgatorial Society, the Society for Catholic Liturgy, and the Saint Wilfred’s Club for Organists.

Since my arrival at Saint Vincent Ferrer this summer, the kind outpouring of support, encouragement, and welcome from the Dominican communities and parishioners has been overwhelming! My most sincere thanks go to Fr. Walter for entrusting me with the great responsibility of directing this music program. Working with a pastor who is so caring, knowledgeable, and dedicated continues to be both a professional and personal joy. The musical and liturgical vision that he articulated in bulletin letters as part of the merger process is nothing short of extraordinary. The parish has in
Fr. Innocent a priest who is also a noted chant scholar as an enormous asset, and I look forward to collaborating with him as we introduce sung Sunday Vespers this fall!

I cannot wait for the new season to get started in earnest, and, as the Parish Choir begins at Saint Catherine of Siena on September 11th, the Sunday Music Class and Vespers begins on September 18th, and Solemn Mass resumes at Saint Vincent Ferrer on October 2nd, I will write to you again to provide details regarding the musical ministries with which the parish is full.

Meeting parishioners on the weekend is difficult because I am generally playing a prelude as you arrive and a
postlude as you leave; however, I hope to get to know as many of you as possible as my fiancée Kim and I make our spiritual home here. For now, I ask that you continue to support the music program in any way you can, but especially through prayer. May it always glorify God in heaven and uplift our brothers and sisters here on earth. In closing, I share this daily prayer for musicians and hope you will offer it on behalf of our parish’s mission:

Bless, O Lord, us thy servants who minister in thy temple.
Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts,
and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

August 20, 2016

Religious Education (August 21, 2016)

For those who don’t yet know me, my name is Lisa Harrelson. I’m honored and humbled to serve as Coordinator of Religious Education for our parish, and to follow in the footsteps of our beloved Miss Dolores. I was born and mostly raised in Houston, Texas, but I’ve lived in New York for the past eight years. By now, I’m both a Texan and a New Yorker at heart!

I began my career as a CPA and started volunteering as a catechist as a way to relieve the stress of working long hours for a public accounting firm. After six years of corporate life, I answered God’s call to return to graduate school to study elementary education. I spent the next decade as both a classroom teacher and an elementary school librarian in Houston and here in New York. During this time, I spent eight years studying the Bible through an intensive, interdenominational Bible study program and six years learning about Catholic Liturgy and the Sacraments as a sponsor for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at my home parish on the West Side.

I often wondered why God gave me such an unusual mix of education and experience. He answered that question for me when I began in this role at St. Catherine’s two years ago. I’ve been able to put my administrative, education, and volunteer experience to good use in service to His Church, and am so grateful for the gift of this ministry.

Our team has been busy this summer formulating a vision for our combined religious education program. For the upcoming school year, we’re pleased to offer Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) Levels 1, 2, and 3 for children from 3-years-old to sixth grade. Level 1 serves children from 3-years-old through Kindergarten. Level 2 serves first through third grades. Level 3 serves fourth through sixth grades.

In addition to CGS, we’ll also continue to offer our Graded Program at St. Vincent Ferrer for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. I will facilitate our CGS sessions, while our familiar and dedicated team of catechists will lead our Graded Program. Ruth De Paula will teach fourth grade, Vincent Basilici will teach fifth grade, and Joan Carvo will teach sixth grade. I will also continue to facilitate the Ignite Middle School Youth Ministry program for seventh and eight graders.

Sessions will begin the week of September 18 and run through the first week of June. The fee for religious education at any level is $250 per child. The Graded Program will be held at St. Vincent Ferrer. CGS and Ignite will be held at St. Catherine of Siena.


CGS was developed by two Catholic laywomen in Rome, guided by the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori. The resulting religious education materials are based on the Bible, Catholic Liturgy and Sacraments, Tradition, and Church teachings. CGS sessions are limited to twelve children each and are held in the Atrium, a sacred space designated for catechetical sessions intended to help children fully engage in their religious education, to develop their religious
potential, and to facilitate their participation in the life of the Church. Preparation for First Confession and First Holy Communion occurs within Level 2.

As a longtime educator, I believe in CGS because the hands-on, experiential learning environment is
developmentally appropriate for children of all ages. CGS also addresses different learning modalities as the children have opportunities to express their knowledge through written, verbal, and artistic means. As a Catholic, I believe in CGS because it fosters a setting in which the children are able to get to know God, rather than simply knowing about God. Their experiences in CGS help build the foundation for a lifelong relationship with Christ.

If you’d like more information about CGS, please visit If you’d like to visit the Atrium and see a
demostration presentation of CGS materials, please contact me. All are welcome!

4th, 5th, AND 6th GRADED PROGRAM

The graded program is a more traditional, structured religious education program than CGS. In accordance with Archdiocese recommendations, our parish is moving toward having children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation following their eighth grade year. However, those children who have already participated in the graded program for at least one year may still be confirmed after completing the 6th Grade program, in the fall of their seventh grade year, if parents and children so choose. Those students will also have the option to continue on to Ignite Youth Ministry even if they’ve already been confirmed or to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation after their eighth grade year. Children must participate in religious formation for at least two years leading up to Confirmation.


Our Ignite Middle School Youth Ministry program serves as continuing religious education, as well as formation for youth who have not yet been confirmed. We cover the Old Testament, the New Testament and Life of Jesus, the Human Person, the Sacraments, Morality, Prayer, Church History and other relevant topics. Students also have social and service opportunities.


Our schedule for the upcoming year is as follows:

CGS Level 1 (3-years-old  – Kindergarten)
Sundays at 10:00 – 11:15 am (During the 10:00 am Mass)
Thursdays at 3:00 – 4:00 pm

CGS Level 2 (1st grade – 3rd grade)
Sundays at 11:15 am – 12:45 pm (Following the 10:00 am Mass)
Sundays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm (Preceding the 5:00 pm Mass)
Wednesdays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm (SESSION ALMOST FULL)
Wednesdays at 5:00 – 6:30 pm
Thursdays at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

CGS Level 3 (4th grade – 6th grade)
Mondays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm

4th/5th/6th Graded Program (AT ST. VINCENT FERRER)
Tuesdays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm

Ignite Youth (7th and 8th grades)
Mondays at 5:00 – 6:30 pm

I will be at the Saturday Vigil Masses and each one of the Sunday Masses at both of our churches on September 10th and 11th to say hello and register your children for religious education. I’m excited to meet you all!

If you have any questions or wish to register your child before September 10th, please contact me at 212.988.8300, x186 or I’m looking forward to a wonderful year!

Yours in Christ,


August 13, 2016

Just Over the Horizon – Pastor’s Reflection (August 14, 2016)

I hate to intrude upon your summer reveries, but it will not be too early to mark your calendar for the month of September. In a strange political year, the rhythm of the church year may speak more eloquently than ever. We also have some important acknowledgments to make.

Monday, August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This year the Assumption is not a holy day of obligation, but that does not mean we cannot celebrate it. Please join us for a Sung Mass at 6 pm at St. Vincent Ferrer. We will conclude with a procession to the statue of Our Lady Gate of Heaven, Porta Caeli.

Monday, September 5, Labor Day

We will have Low Masses at 8 am at St. Vincent Ferrer and at 9 am at St. Catherine of Siena.

Tuesday, September 6, St. Vincent Ferrer High School begins a new year

Here is a chance to welcome Fr. Matthew Carroll, O.P.  He has been assigned to the Priory at St. Vincent Ferrer and will serve on the faculty of the High School as a religion teacher. We are delighted to have him.

Wednesday, September 7, RCIA begins

Fr. Innocent Smith will coordinate this program, but other Friars will take part in the teaching. Sessions will begin at 6:45 pm in the Parish Council Room at St. Vincent Ferrer and they will end in time for participants to share in Adoration and Night Prayer in the church. Fr. Innocent will write to you shortly to introduce this program.

Thursday, September 8, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We will have Sung Mass at 6 pm. at St. Vincent Ferrer

Saturday, September 10

Visitation Circle, our association of single women, resumes its monthly fellowship with Mass at 12 pm at the Rosary Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer. Please call Rachel Miller if you would like more information about this group which offers social, intellectual, and spiritual nourishment to its wide variety of members. All are welcome to join the ladies for Mass.

Sunday, September 11, the Fifteenth Anniversary of the terrorist attacks

We will have a special Mass at St. Catherine of Siena, with a procession to the Purgatorial Altar and prayers for the dead. Our Parish Choir will sing at this Mass and will continue thereafter.

Monday, September 12, Meeting of the Parish Council

Tuesday, September 13 – Friday, September 22

Fr. Walter facilitates and preaches for the quadrennial assembly of the Association of Monasteries of
Dominican Nuns of North America in Nashville. ( I am sorry for the unfortunate timing of this. Everyone I consulted felt we should not postpone the startup activities below.)

Tuesday, September 13, Parish Study begins

We will meet at 6:45 pm in the Parish Hall at St. Vincent Ferrer. This fall will be a study of the Psalms.

Wednesday, September 14, The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross  

Sung Mass at St. Catherine of Siena at 6:30 pm, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and All Night watch in the church. The prayer intention for this vigil will be for an end to terrorism. The watch will conclude with the 7 am Mass for Our Lady of Sorrows. Please note that there will be no Holy Hour at St. Vincent Ferrer this evening.

Sunday, September 18 

Religious Education resumes. Lisa Harrelson, our Coordinator of Religious Education will write to you next week in these pages to introduce the program to you.

Family Coffee will take place in St. Dominic Hall at St. Catherine’s after the 10 am Mass. This is a child
friendly event open to everyone. We aim to have it on the third Sunday of the month.

At St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Coffee will also take place after the Noon Mass. Usually this coffee will take place on the first Sunday of the month.

Our weekly Parish Singing Class begins today at 4:30 pm under the direction of James Wetzel

Parish Vespers begins at 5:15 pm in the choir stalls at St. Vincent Ferrer. You may remember that this will now be a regular part of our Sunday Schedule.

Monday, September 26, Requiem Mass in the Dominican Rite

The New York Purgatorial Society will sponsor a Requiem Mass in the Dominican Rite. This will take place at
7 pm at the Rosary Altar in St. Vincent Ferrer. The Society has the work of praying for the deceased, and will offer these masses once each month.

Sunday, October 2, The Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year

Solemn Mass resumes at St. Vincent Ferrer at Noon.  Bishop Gerald Walsh will join us to confirm our young people and we will also welcome the St. Vincent Ferrer High School class of 2020. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

The Thanks of the Parish

We could never successfully foster the life of our new parish without remembering those whose work has brought us to this point.

By the time you read these lines, we will have celebrated the funeral for Pat Keegan, whose gracious service as Parish Secretary set the tone for St. Vincent Ferrer for 37 years. Pat’s work enabled the service of innumerable Friars, Sisters, and Laypeople. It will be no exaggeration to say that Pat was the wind beneath the wings of the parish. My hope is that in God’s mercy she may know how many of us love her and only wish we could have told her good-bye.

One thing we can do is thank Dolores Getcher. “Miss Dolores” has decided that after 10 years of running the religious education program at St. Vincent Ferrer she would like to pursue other avenues of generosity. She promises that these will include the Parish. Her work has made lots of kids feel loved in the presence of God, and her presence has allowed parents to drop off their children to learn sound things in a joyful mode. Dolores’ smile, and her style, have made her a magical ambassador for Christ, and it will be a pleasure to carry a debt of gratitude to such a grand lady.

We can also pray for Fr. Jordan Kelly who has completed a sabbatical at Providence College and has moved to Washington, D.C. There he will begin a new ministry as chaplain at Archbishop Carroll High School. He also will introduce the Gospel with conviction and verve to many young people, who will benefit from his gifts for people and for worship. Once again we express gratitude for the way in which Fr. Jordan lavished these gifts upon the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena. Ad Multos Annos!

Fr. Walter

August 06, 2016

The Witness of Conversation – Pastor’s Reflection (August 7, 2016)

Tomorrow, Monday, August 8, brings the Solemnity of St. Dominic. This year the Feast will bring the conclusion of a “General Chapter” of our Order, held at Bologna in Italy, in the very church where St. Dominic is buried. General Chapters take place every three years, and these representative assemblies provide the essential organ of our governance. I humbly bring to your attention something that seems obscure and suggest that it merits a moment of your time.

General Chapters bring together Friars from all over the world for a period of three weeks to a month, so that by any estimate they are an expensive and inefficient way to conduct business. But take a second look. The very breadth and length of these gatherings puts a countercultural premium on conversation. In the end the worldwide Order of Preachers governs itself through conversation. Everything has to be talked out by the group. Only then do we accord a proposal the force of law. For example, a change in our Constitutions (the major legislation of the Order) becomes effective only after three successive chapters have reflected upon it. over a period of nine years. (There is of course a more immediate method of making a measure effective on an interim basis.)

After three weeks of deliberation the Chapter will address the whole Order conversationally. They will issue its “Acts.” These will include laws, but also recommendations, exhortations, and praises. The delegates will place their legislation in context. The rules will follow from a reflection upon the nature of our times as seen by Christians called to follow the Lord as Dominicans. All of us Friars will then have the work of obeying, that is listening (obedire) to what the delegates have written, not only the rules they specify, but the reflections which give them coherence.

This lumbering medieval mechanism has kept the Order essentially faithful to itself for eight centuries. The chapter structure acts like a wetland, blunting the storm surge of various religious movements, so that the Order has a chance to ponder each new enthusiasm and its lasting relevance.

We Friars cherish the perhaps “urban legend” that Thomas Jefferson had read our Constitutions when he addressed himself to the system of checks and balances that marks government of these United States. Even if this is only a great story, it makes a strong point. If we examine the branches and levels of our government, can we not perceive its essentially conversational structure? Even campaigns with all of their sound and fury are meant to have a role in the dialog of the present moment, and in the dialog, between successive eras. A question we can ask ourselves is: how vital and real is our public conversation at this time? I do not think the answer to this question is obvious, because a conversation may be emotionally fraught and contentious and still be very real. What seems important to me is realizing the essential value.

In their ways, Jesus and Dominic both present themselves as men who listen. Their example challenges to take a longer and quieter way to discovering truth and finding ways to live in it.


Summer Peace!

Fr. Walter


Two appeals

At St. Catherine’s it has been customary for parishioners to greet those arriving for Mass and to hand them the material they need for worship. Now that we use the same worship booklets at St. Vincent’s, we are looking for people who worship regularly at SVF who might be willing to come a bit early and carry out this service of greeting. If you are interested, please contact Rachel.

At St. Vincent’s, members of the Social Concerns Committee have collected donations at Mass once a month to benefit the New York Common Pantry, which feeds homeless and low-income people. We would like to extend this custom to St. Catherine’s. Again, if you would be interested in this generous service, please call Rachel at the main desk.