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

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

January 28, 2017

Taking Stock

The liturgical cycle seems to give gifts and challenges appropriate to each year. This year’s consolation took the form of a wonderfully long Advent, and a Sunday Christmas. A second gift comes in a long liturgical winter, the quiet days between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. Lent does not begin until March 1, which affords time to sit down in the back room for another round of behind-the-scenes work.

We need to get cozy with plans for the governance of the Parish. Governance refers to those structures by which the Pastor and his staff hold themselves accountable and also receive feedback and advice. Our former
parishes of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena differed in their patterns of governance, and we can take that divergence as a chance to benefit from two sets of insights. I will be meeting with a number of committed parishioners to apply the Canon Law of the Universal Church and Archdiocesan Law to our situation.

When this process is done we will be able to delineate for you the duties of the Parish Trustees, the Finance Council, the Pastoral Council, and the various committees of the Parish. Our year and a half of experience as a parish will, I hope, enhance the effectiveness of our work.

I will update you in these pages as this plan takes place.

We have mental and emotional space to focus on this work, because at this time finances do not cause worry. This peace of mind is thanks to you. As of this writing our Christmas and end-of-year donations look to total about $210,000.00. The hidden good news here is that we received this amount even without some of
extraordinary gifts that came our way last year.

For this support I cannot express enough my gratitude and that of those I work with.

In recent weeks we have taken time to assess our first Christmas with a unified music program and schedule of services. We registered a great response to the times of Mass and confessions. We also had very appreciative
comments about the music for Christmas and associated days. In particular, the service of Lessons and Carols in honor of the Blessed Virgin on December 7, and the service of Advent Lessons and Carols on December 17
garnered high praise of content and execution.

If we could do it over again we would have been louder and clearer about the nature of the Dominican Rite Mass at Midnight. We caught some people unaware and were certainly sorry to do that.

Another Christmas success came in the form of our Christmas Fair. In addition to being beautifully
decorated and arranged, the fair was excellent community time. For all of this, let me thank the many parishioners who frequented the Fair, both to work and to shop. On an encouraging note the Christmas Fair continues to grow as a parish fundraiser. In 2014 it raised about $4,000, in 2015 about $6,000, and this year about $8,000.
Alongside the fair were drives for women’s clothing for the Park Avenue Shelter, and Toys for the New York Common Pantry. These also yielded excellent results and the generosity of those who work and those who give surely preaches the Gospel.

Two events will punctuate the Winter weeks ahead. First, on Thursday, February 2, we will celebrate the beautiful feast of the Presentation. At a bleak turn of the year we light candles on this day and present ourselves in faith. The act of making oneself available to God challenges lethargy and lightens one’s steps toward this spring and the eternal spring. We will celebrate the Feast with a Solemn Mass at St. Catherine’s at 6:30 PM. Just to jog
memories, those who were at the Mass last year found it to be wonderfully beautiful.

Later in the Month, Saturday, February 25 will bring us to the annual Mardi Gras Party, to be held at
St. Catherine’s after the 4 PM Mass. Details will follow, but please save room for a repetition of last year’s elegant and fun interlude before Lent.

You will find a new Friar on the roster of celebrants and preachers. Please welcome Fr. Thomas More Garrett, O.P. to our Parish. Fr. Thomas More is a classmate of Fr. Innocent and Fr. John Devaney. A lawyer by training, he will be assisting Fr. Gabriel Gillen in the work of the Dominican Foundation. I have no doubt that we will all benefit by his presence.

Finally, we want to mourn the loss of Fr. Thaddeus Murphy, O.P.  who ministered for many years at
St. Catherine of Siena Priory and Parish. Fr. Thaddeus served in all the ministries of the parish and the hospital
chaplaincy, but he was especially devoted to the apostolate of prayer, and founded the Queen of Peace Prayer Group which still meets at St. Catherine’s each Saturday morning. What a marvelous tribute that members of the parish travelled all the way to Columbus, Ohio for the funeral!  May he rest in peace.

May your winter be swift.
Fr. Walter

January 21, 2017

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Reflection (January 22, 2016)

“The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §820).

It is easy to ignore the divisions that have rent the Church; they have become so much a part of the experience of Christians that there continued presence seems unremarkable. When we call to mind Christ’s fervent prayer at the Last Supper that His disciples may be one, however, we begin to realize that our
composure in the face of division and misunderstanding is unwarranted. Christ wills that we should be One, and the Holy Spirit calls us to work and pray for that unity.

How can we respond to this call to work for the unity of Christians? The Compendium of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us several helpful areas to consider: “This desire involves the entire Church and it is pursued by conversion of heart, prayer, fraternal knowledge of each other and theological dialogue” (§164).

Conversion of heart means striving to live out more deeply the holiness to which we are called by means of our baptism, to avoid letting our own unfaithfulness to Christ scandalize others.

By praying for unity, we unite our prayers to those of Christ for the unity of the Church; we join
ourselves to the Holy Spirit who is the one who unifies and sanctifies the Church. When we pray together with Christians of other churches or communities, we manifest an aspect of the unity we already share, while still acknowledging the ever expanding unity to which we are called.

Fraternal knowledge of each other, whether achieved through simply spending time with those of other traditions or through more formal ecclesial encounters, enables the banishment of simple prejudice. While doctrinal divisions may still remain, fraternal knowledge reminds us of the good will shared by those who may disagree with us, even on important matters, and at times gives those we encounter a chance to overcome their own overly simple notions of Catholic beliefs and practices. The unity to which we are ultimately called is the unity of the whole human race, united in God; fraternal encounters promote on a human and supernatural level this ultimate unity.

Theological dialogue, when pursued with a sense of realism and good will by those who are already well grounded in their own traditions, helps to distinguish between divisive issues that are merely a result of
historical misunderstanding and those which are in fact deeply rooted in divergent interpretations of the Christian faith. By engaging in serious and charitable dialogue, the authentic positions of various groups
becomes more clear, and steps may be taken which can help alleviate certain ongoing divisions or

“The Church is one because she has as her source and exemplar the unity of the Trinity of Persons in one God. As her Founder and Head, Jesus Christ re-established the unity of all people in one body. As her soul, the Holy Spirit unites all the faithful in communion with Christ. The Church has but one faith, one sacramental life, one apostolic succession, one common hope, and one and the same charity” (Compendium, §161).

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, may we work and pray that all Christians may become more fully rooted in the unity of the Trinity, One God, forever and ever!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Innocent Smith, op

January 14, 2017

Upcoming Parish Events (January 15, 2017)

Fr. Walter has invited me to write this bulletin letter so that I can share with you information about two initiatives our parish is undertaking in the coming weeks: our Spring Parish Study program and our parish’s events for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Parish Study

The Church’s liturgy sometimes feels mysterious. On one hand, this is fitting for what is, at heart, a participation in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. On the other hand, when we are mystified by the words and actions employed we can at times be distracted from the task at hand of entering into that Mystery more deeply – mysteries can obscure the Mystery. By learning why the liturgy employs the words and gestures that we
encounter from week to week or from day to day, we can enter into the Mass with the conscious and active
participation that Church desires for each member of the faithful.

This Spring, our Parish Study program aims to help members of our parish to come to a better understanding of the Mass, so that we may more fully follow St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray with understanding” (1 Cor 14:15). Meeting each Tuesday evening in the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Hall from 6:45-7:45 pm, the twelve week class will give an
overview of the parts of the Mass that we encounter each week: the “Ordinary of the Mass,” which consists of the texts that we recite each week (e.g. the Lord have mercy, Glory to God in the highest, Lamb of God, etc.) and the “Propers of the Mass” which change from week to week (entrance chant, collect, readings, etc.). The class will be taught by me together with our director of music, James Wetzel. Each week we will consider different aspects of the words, actions, and music we encounter in the Mass. Our first meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 17, where James and I will give an overview of the Outline of the Mass and the Seasons of the Year, and will continue each Tuesday until April 4. You are most welcome to attend each class or to drop in from time to time as your schedule allows.

In the Middle Ages, an unknown author wrote a treatise on the liturgy called the Liber Quare – the “Book of Why?” In this book, the author posed a series of questions as to “Why” such and such was done in the liturgy. In the spirit of this inquiry, I’d like to invite you to submit your own questions about the liturgy by email to or in written form to the Parish Office. James and I can then draw on these specific questions as we prepare our talks over the course of the class sessions.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Each year, the Catholic Church dedicates the week of January 18–25 to praying for Christian Unity, alongside other Christian churches and communities. Last year, our parish hosted a special series of events to commemorate and
participate in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, including a lecture on St. Catherine and St. Vincent in the
context of the Western Schism and a Holy Hour for Christian Unity. This year, we’ll host another series of events at both churches as well as with our neighbors at St. John Nepomucene. The full schedule can be found on the front page of the bulletin, but I’d like to draw your attention to three special events.

On Thursday, January 19 at St. Vincent Ferrer, we’ll celebrate a 6 pm Sung Votive Mass for Christian Unity followed by a 7 pm lecture on Christian Unity and Evangelization by Dr. Christopher Ruddy. Dr. Ruddy was one of my professors at Catholic University of America during my graduate studies in Washington, DC, and he is a man of great wisdom and insight into the nature of the Church and the mystery of Christian unity. His talk will draw on the seminal text of John 17, focusing on the phrase “That The World May Believe,” signaling the relation in the mind of Christ between the unity of Christians and the effectiveness of their participation in Christ’s mission of evangelization.

On Friday, January 20 at St. Vincent Ferrer, we’ll host an evening of Lutheran – Catholic Prayer, focused on the theme of music and Christian unity. Pastor Gregory Fryer of Immanuel Lutheran Church will speak on music in the
Lutheran tradition, while I will speak on music in the Catholic tradition. In addition, we’ll have the chance to hear beautiful organ music from Lutheran and Catholic composers played by James Wetzel.

On Monday, January 23, we’ll celebrate a 5:15 pm Sung Votive Mass for Giving Thanks for the Gift of Human Life at
St. Catherine of Siena, followed by a 7 pm Orthodox – Catholic Prayer service at St. John Nepomucene. The latter event will include a talk by Sr. Virginia Joy, one of the Sisters of Life at the Visitation Mission on 71st Street, as well as a talk by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. These events will be a wonderful opportunity to give thanks to God for the gifts of unity and life, and ask him to make us instruments of hope and
healing in the midst of the difficulties we and our society experience in these areas.

Yours in the unity of Christ,

Fr. Innocent Smith, op

January 11, 2017

Parish Study 2017: Pray with Understanding


Pray with Understanding: Participating in the Mysteries of the Mass

“So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding;
I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.”
(1 Cor 14:15).

This Spring, Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P. and James Wetzel will present a series of talks on the theme “Pray with Understanding: Participating in the Mysteries of the Mass.” Throughout the twelve sessions, they will delve into the mysteries of the Mass, explaining the history, symbolism, theological and musical dimensions of the liturgy. By participating in this Parish Study program, we hope that you may come to experience a deeper participation in the liturgy of the Church.

The class will take place on Tuesday evenings from 6:45-7:45 pm in the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Hall.

1/17/17 Outline of the Mass and the Seasons of the Year Fr. Innocent Smith, op and James Wetzel
1/24/17 Dominican Tradition and the Liturgy of the Church Fr. Innocent Smith, op
1/31/17 The Ordinary of the Mass – History and Texts Fr. Innocent Smith, op
2/7/17 The Ordinary of the Mass – Chant settings James Wetzel
2/14/17 The Ordinary of the Mass – Polyphonic settings James Wetzel
2/21/17 The Propers of the Mass – Part I Fr. Innocent Smith, op
2/28/17 The Propers of the Mass – Part II Fr. Innocent Smith, op
3/7/17 Collects Fr. Innocent Smith, op
3/14/17 Readings Fr. Innocent Smith, op
3/21/17 Prayers over the Gifts and Prefaces Fr. Innocent Smith, op and James Wetzel
3/28/17 Eucharistic Prayers and Postcommunion Prayers Fr. Innocent Smith, op
4/4/17 Hymns and Motets James Wetzel
January 07, 2017

The Eyes of Mercy – Pastor’s Reflection (January 8, 2017)

As we head into a new political era at home, and survey a volatile world beyond our borders I find that my gut response is to hope that other people change in a whole variety of ways.  I perceive that my environment would be more healthful at all levels if only others recognized what they need to do, and not do. So long as I stick with this view I retain the luxury of blaming other people, high and low, near and far, for not heeding the obvious. But a far more insightful response comes when I realize that the first step toward world peace and domestic tranquility is for me to become more Christian.

This is why year after year I must celebrate the Epiphany and recognize Christ.  For I discover each year that I have only begun to know Him and that He has something new to show me, something that has always been there, but that I have not always been ready to see or hear.

This means that I am always looking at the same surface, and also seeing further into what it reveals. This gets at what God intends by the mystery of the Epiphany, which is to make us able to see through appearances, not as through a facade to an interior, or as through makeup to a real face, but to recognize that what I look at actually discloses the shape of the invisible. In the light of this truth the Infant in the Manger, Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan, and Christ the wedding guest in Cana disclose the mind and plan of God, not once, but continuously.

This year at Epiphany, Christ is showing me the loving gaze He casts on every person: on those who follow Him and those who don’t, on those who follow Him without qualification and those for whom life remains complicated.  Christ reveals to me that not only is He recognized in the Epiphany, but that He recognizes.  If Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist and the Magi, Andrew and Peter, James and John all come to see beyond the surface of Jesus’ humanity to recognize the living Word of God, he also sees the depths of each of them.

That gaze beholds the complexity of each one of us, not to analyze it, but to work with it, as at Cana to make fine wine out of water.

I know this gaze to be the secret of Christian vocation.  In my work with committed Christians in all states of life I have recognized God doing amazing things with quite ordinary people who have quite ordinary personal issues. I have come to see this as part of the ongoing Epiphany.  God shows His power through the human vulnerability that becomes its instrument and vessel.

Here shines new light on the weakness of great people: there are two ways for us to look at it. We can discover their clay feet and write them off, or we can be amazed by what God builds on such a foundation.  This change of perspective is a way of becoming more Christian, and it gives an anatomy to mercy.  Mercy sees the truth more deeply.

Probably the news will show us the same surfaces in 2017 that it did last year, and probably in our own worlds what we behold will remain constant.  But we, living the sacramental life, will not be static and will grow in our potential to recognize in the way we have been recognized.

Fr. Walter