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

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

November 26, 2016

Advent in Our Parish (November 27, 2016)

Advent In Our Parish

Opportunities for Giving

Toy Drive Sponsored by the New York Common Pantry

Gifts for Women Sponsored by our Social Concerns Committee for the Residents of the Park Avenue Armory Women’s Shelter
These gifts are given at our Shelter Christmas Party Next Saturday,
December 3.

Gifts in the Parish Please contribute to our Parish Christmas Fair to be be held next weekend, December 2 – 4 at
St. Catherine’s.
Please:  Bring items you would like to donate.
Consider working at the fair for some hours.
Bring friends to shop next weekend.

Christmas Cards Christmas cards, designed especially for the parish by Sister Mary Grace, O.P. at Caterina Benincasa Dominican Monastery, are available in the St. Vincent Ferrer vestibule.

Advent Celebrations

November 29 The First Sunday of Advent
Music of William Byrd at the Solemn Mass
Parish Vespers New time of 5:30 pm St Vincent Ferrer
With the chant class at 5 pm

December 2 – 4
Parish Christmas Fair St. Catherine of Siena – St. Dominic Hall
December 2: 12 pm – 4 pm
December 3 – 4: 9 am – 8 pm

December 3 The Second Sunday of Advent
Music of Josef Rheinberger at the Solemn Mass
Parish Coffee: 1 pm St. Vincent Ferrer – Parlors of the Priory
Parish Vespers: 5:30 pm St. Vincent Ferrer

December 8 The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
*A Holy Day of Obligation
On the Vigil, Wednesday, December 7
Low Masses of the Vigil 5:15 pm: St. Catherine of Siena
6 pm: St. Vincent Ferrer

Lessons and Carols 7 pm St. Vincent Ferrer
This hour-long service will consist of a sequence of scripture readings,
motets sung by the Schola Cantorum, and congregational hymns
celebrating the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Choral works of Bassi,
Billings, Cleobury, Dawson, Hawley, Howells, Joubert, Willan, and Wood.
A reception will follow in the Priory Parlors.

On the Day, Thursday, December 8
Low Mass: 7 am St. Catherine of Siena
Low Mass: 8 am St. Vincent Ferrer
Sung Mass: 12:10 pm St. Vincent Ferrer – With St. Vincent Ferrer High School
Low Mass: 1 pm St. Catherine of Siena
Low Mass: 5:15 pm St. Catherine of Siena
Solemn Mass: 6 pm St. Vincent Ferrer
At the Solemn Mass the Schola Cantorum will sing music of the Flemish
Renaissance: Orlando di Lasso’s Missa Qual donna and Alma Redemptoris
Mater á 8
 and Jacobus Clemens non Papa Ego flos campi á 7.

December 10
Rorate Mass: 6:30 am St. Vincent Ferrer
Parish Advent Retreat: 9 am – 12:30 pm St. Vincent Ferrer
To You O Lord I Lift up my Soul: Longing as the Antidote for Despair

December 11 The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
Music of Healey Willan, William McKie, and Edward Bairstow at the Solemn Mass

December 12 The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Sung Mass and Procession: 6 pm St. Vincent Ferrer

December 16 – 24
Misa de Gallo: 6 am St. Vincent Ferrer –  Rosary Altar
A Novena of prayer for safe childhood

December 17
Advent Lessons and Carols: 7:30 pm St. Catherine of Siena
Reception follows in St. Dominic’s Hall
This service will make a scriptural and musical pilgrimage through
Advent, with lessons from the Old Testment prophets,motets sung by the
Schola Cantorum, and congregational hymns. Choral works of Manz,
Mendelssohn, Neswick, Ord, Preston, and others. A reception follows in
St. Dominic Hall.

December 18 The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reconciliation Sunday
Family Mass and Coffee: 10 am St. Catherine of Siena
Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria, Cristóbal de Morales, and Francisco
Guerrero at the Solemn Mass
Parish Vespers: 5:30 pm St. Vincent Ferrer

December 19
Reconciliation Monday: 4 – 8 pm Confessions heard in both churches

November 19, 2016

Befriending Power – Pastor’s Reflection (November 20, 2016)

Kingship elicits thoughts of power, and in these touchy post-election days we may not welcome them. Abuse of power hardly counts as a new thing under the Sun, but recent decades have demanded that we name its extent and variety. American history has taken shape as a series of reactions to domination and, with varying degrees of success, we have targeted monarchy, dictatorship, slaveholding, exclusion from
voting, unregulated labor practices, discrimination in housing, employment, and public services. But in recent times we have had to face the abuse of persons at close quarters; in churches, in offices, on campuses, and at home.

Understandably, we check power with law. To this impulse we may credit the federal structure of our republic and the system of checks and balances that obtains at every level of its government. Further, we may add the variety of legislation that protects the civil rights of groups and individuals. Our discomfort with power may inspire us to use images of kindness and gentleness to domesticate the might of Christ: but this does not do justice to His kingship, which possesses a power both unqualified and unqualifiable. He does not comfort us by blunting His power but by making us safe within it, so that we befriend our own power to be like Him.

All of this becomes visible on the Cross. Christ crucified has not lost his power, but has used it fully. He helps us to perceive this truth of his Passion on the night before, when He washes the feet of His disciples. That the leader tends to the follower is a self-emptying (Kenosis), but this counts not as loss but as complete fulfillment. In Christ crucified is the naked power to love in an unqualified fashion and this attaches completely to God’s power to create and sustain life Christ, in His humanity retains the power, even when dying, to seek the good of those alienated from God, and we can glimpse in Him God’s power to bring life into existence and sustain it.

What we can learn from this is that whenever power is used to dominate it falls far short of its
potential, but it reaches that potential when it enables the thriving of the other, and this is to love
completely. Faith teaches us to receive this love with ease. We come to befriend the power of God, and not fear it, when we recognize that our seeing, hearing, thinking, even breathing, in the present moment
happens because of God’s continuous exercise of His power. Here we discover that our claims of
self-sufficiency are never strong as our constant dependence on the power of God, and the realization offers no humiliation, but rather the joy of realizing that we are truly loved into life.

This truth releases us from fear of our own power. If we are held in life by God’s power for good, we also share in that power. Created in His image we possess something of His capacities, and so we must befriend our own power for good.

It is important to note this since our first impulse toward holiness may be to check ourselves out of a healthy suspicion of our own potency. So we keep our noses clean and our mouths shut. We expend great energy in not offending our companions and in not embarrassing ourselves. Our instincts rest on the clear record of our missteps and those of others.

But Christ comes not to quench our power but to release it and direct it to the thriving of others. He knows this will accomplish good for them and happiness for us as it is happiness for Him. This happiness begins in us when we recognize the people who are vulnerable to us and we choose not to dominate, that is intimidate, seduce, manipulate, or exclude them.

On Thanksgiving we may look around the table and recognize those most vulnerable to us. These are the ones we can easily hurt, but also release and raise up.  Over the pumpkin pie we will have the capacity from Christ to speak the encouraging word that sets another free for holy risk, or may choose the cutting word that will hold them fast to past mistakes. If we choose the latter course, our power remains
untransformed and theirs remains shackled. Choosing to befriend our power over our beloved will prove a happier use of our mind than meditating on how they can hurt or help us.

Recognizing the truth of power in that domestic place demands deep honesty. Befriending that power takes the Kingdom of Christ out of the pages of the Gospel and plants it in your home.


Thanksgiving Peace!

Fr. Walter

November 12, 2016

Looking at the Shape of a Dominican Parish – Pastor’s Reflection (November 13, 2016)

Last week in these pages I tried to articulate the spiritual foundations of a Dominican Parish.

  • Among these, the concept of “order” itself provides the bedrock. Since the Friars and Sisters live within the Dominican way of life, they will tend to generate ministries in which the community provides unity and continuity, not an individual.
  • The Dominican Community possesses a fraternal or sororal character, especially in its governance. Any of its endeavors will feature consultation before, collaboration during, and review after. Thus, while a Brother of the Order serves as Pastor, he will seek to integrate conversation into signifiant decision making, especially through the councils and committees of the parish. Such an approach accepts real deficits of efficiency in exchange for allowing consensus to emerge.
  • This approach to affairs relies on a spiritual backbone of assertive non-dominance in which members of the parish community contribute gifts of authority, talent, wealth, and personality. While they might otherwise use these gifts to achieve and retain pre-eminence, among us they employ them sacrificially so that the group as a whole may thrive.

I would like now to build upon these foundations to set out what I view as essential elements of the culture of our parish. These are things I have learned over the last six years of being a pastor; and the last two years of our parish merger have brought them home to me with ever greater clarity. What follows is a draft for your consideration. The final will follow in due course. Like any norms these statements point to what we have achieved and make explicit what we have not yet accomplished.

Our Parish derives life from the charism of the Order of Preachers.

  • The celebration of the Liturgy takes pride of place
  • With the reverence due to this encounter with God.
  • With the awareness demanded by our common baptismal priesthood.
  • With the concentration on the Word of God called for by all who love study.
  • With the humility that avoids triumphalism.
  • We foster personal prayer and devotion by keeping our churches open, encouraging the rosary and Eucharistic Adoration, and by giving our shrines and side altars adequate attention.
  • The Life of Study plays a central role in the life of the Community of the Parish.
  • Projects of common study are integral to our common life.
  • These will include Sacred Scripture, and other topics of ecclesial significance.
  • Study marks our formation programs at all levels. The presentation of doctrine always makes social and liturgical connections.
  • We try to make study a habit of mind, leading to a contemplative regard for persons, situations, and things.
  • In the running of councils and committees we follow a fraternal pattern of seeking consensus.
  • While the Community of the Parish receives benefactions gratefully, we regard parishioners as members of a community rather than as donors to a charity.

Our Parish is essentially diverse.

  • Our parish life stands at a crossroads of classes, ideologies, ethnicities, and generations. The Order, the city, and the neighborhood each possess a cosmopolitan character and the life of our parish embraces it.
  • The diversity of the local church matches that of our environment. Alternative types of architecture, music, and preaching are available to Catholics in our area, and we acknowledge they may use these to their benefit.
  • We challenge ourselves to welcome all who Christ sends, without partiality.

Our Parish is only complete as part of the Catholic Church

  • We are never in competition with other Catholic entities. It fulfills us to work in concert with the parishes that neighbor us, and with other ministries serving God’s People.
  • We maintain an open and cooperative relationship with the Archdiocese of New York, of which we form a part.
  • Especially through the Cardinal’s Appeal, Second Collections, and the work of our Social Concerns Committee, we seek to be attached to and responsive to the world around us

Our presence beyond ourselves reflects the Missionary Imperatives of the Order of Preachers.

  • We regularly hold events open to the wider public.
  • We undertake efforts to reach the unchurched and the lapsed.
  • We are as generous as we can be in making available the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Our Parish seeks a way of careful stewardship

  • We seek to meet ordinary expenses through ordinary income.
  • We practice financial transparency within the parish and with the Archdiocese.
  • We practice discipline in undertaking capital projects as they are needed and according to a coherent strategy.
  • We have careful regard for the artistic heritage confided to us in our two beautiful churches.
  • Our strategies of investment feature fiduciary caution and take account of Catholic teaching.
  • We practice justice in the compensation of employees.

Please ponder these points at your leisure. At some point after the turn of the year, the Pastoral Council will begin to wrestle with them. When finalized, they will become part of a public document so that we can always hold ourselves accountable.


Fr. Walter

November 05, 2016

Assertive Non-Dominance – Pastor’s Reflection (November 6, 2016)

These words attempt to crystalize the preaching of the three great feasts of this week. In the sermons for All Saints, All Souls, and St. Martin de Porres, I sought to honor the Jubilee of our Order of Preachers by articulating the particular character of a Dominican parish. The three feasts together celebrate the marvelous beauty of the Communion of Saints, the sharing of spiritual things that links the Church across every boundary raised by human society, and human nature. The work of the communion of saints crosses the unscalable wall of death.

So we could say that a Dominican parish is a corner of that communion where the Order of Preachers shares its spiritual gifts intimately with a group of God’s People. As we could say of any of the great religious families in the Church, the preaching and ministry of the Friars, Nuns, Sisters, and laity of the Order emerge from a whole way of life distinctive to us.

This points to the first spiritual gift of our Order, or any Order, which is order itself. If I say that I am a member of the Order, or work for the Order, or subscribe to the principles of the Order, I speak only part of the truth. It captures this mystery more fully to say that the Order is something I live within. It determines where and with whom I live, when I pray, how I work, what I wear. At the same time, it forms me for interacting with you; as a preacher, a confessor, a leader, or a friend. For eight centuries this way of life has welcomed, formed, and caused to thrive all kinds of Christians, both clerics and laity, men and women, contemplative and active, educated and uneducated.

If I answer the call to live within an Order, then I consent to live the rest of my life according to a pattern that will shape me in its likeness. One could argue by analogy that every Christian marriage serves as order for the spouses, who come to live with the relationship, which is bigger than the two of them. The marriage shapes them in general as they each acquire the character of a married person, but it also shapes them in particular as the unique dynamic of their life molds choices and perspectives over the course of decades.

Distinctive of Dominicans, and determinative among us, is the life of Brothers and Sisters. This sounds like a cliche, but it truly serves as the structures the life. In many orders the superior holds parental status and may be called Father (Abbot), or Mother (Abbess). In others the governing analogy is military, and the superior is called general.  In Dominican governance, and this has been the case from the beginning, the superior has been elected by the members and understood to be the first among equals, never losing the relationship of Brother or Sister, and returning “to the ranks” at the end of a term, or two.

A fraternal or sororal government will be one of checks and balances since absolute authority would be inimical to it. Consequently, at each level of the Order local (Priory), regional (Province), or universal, superiors serve in tandem with elected assemblies, whom at times they must obey. The Friars also possess a fraternal polity. Local houses, such as our two priories, form regional provinces, and these in turn make up the Order. But each level of this structure possesses rights and obligations vis a vis the others.

What results has concrete effects for us, and for you. To live within a fraternal and sororal order requires a deep spirit of interdependence, unilateral action and the giving of commands being rare. In the end, most projects take the form of a joint enterprise. Study, as a principal discipline of the Order, supports this as it takes account of context and consequence. Such a way of life will necessitate consultation beforehand, collaboration during, and review after. All must be willing to value inclusion more than efficiency. I find that when I set about doing something for the parish, these are my best instincts. It puts me on the scenic route to accomplishing things, but yields the most enduring results.

Such a life also elicits a distinctive pattern of holiness, which I refer to as asserting non-dominance. By this I make a positive choice to use authority to diffuse power and power to further the gifts of others. If I accept this as the discipline of my life, I do not subjugate others, nor do I content myself with passivity. Indeed, the way of assertive non-dominance calls forth constant self-discipline and creativity. This way of life finds an origin in the Kingship Christ crucified, for He accepted His passion as a spending of self for others. We can also discern this pattern in the Beatitudes which locate the individual’s happiness and holiness in the necessary context of harmony with God and neighbor.

A parish is, like the Church herself, a community of souls. If such a community is entrusted to Dominicans, they will preach most effectively by extending the life of Brothers and Sisters to include the parishioners, and indeed to characterize them. What we want to explore next are the consequences of this for the way in which the parish worships, conducts its affairs, forms its members, and relates to the Church and the world.

I will start from here next week. I trust that in the meantime we may all be brothers and sisters to our fellow Americans at a significant juncture in the life of our nation. How important to remember that we have abundant spiritual goods to share with our contemporaries.


Fr. Walter