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

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

October 14, 2017

St. Jude Novena – Pastor’s Reflection (October 15, 2017)

I write you these words about ten days before you read them, but from your vantage point surely will remember September’s horrendous parade of natural disasters. As you read this, millions of people across the Caribbean (3.5 million in Puerto Rico) and the Southern United States are starting all over again. Years ago they built homes and businesses from scratch now, with greater effort, they reconstruct them from out of a colossal mess.

Imagine too those impacted directly or indirectly by the shooting in Las Vegas. They too must build again, even though they can never build back what was.

Many of us sense a regression in our domestic and international political conversation. How do we recover the patterns of civility in affairs we once took for granted?

We have three hospitals in our parish and in each of these patients start over all the time: trying to recover capacities like walking, to which they once gave no thought.

Starting over is always harder, and demands an extra discipline and determination. Consider a domestic, personal example. We decide to get ourselves into shape and then illness or work breaks our new patterns of health. Then ours is the drudgery of making up lost ground. First, progress thrills us and gives rise to a hearty, “Hey, look at me.” Recovering carries the weight of disappointment, even embarrassment, at repeated effort. Stealthy temptations circle those who have lost ground and entice them away from the grunt work of regaining it. How many are the ways we can check out at such a point. Lost ground is despair’s fertile soil.

But faith teaches that this barren place of loss also harbors the seed of new life, waiting to be watered by prayer. After loss, what will give us the incentive to live again, or to pray that those we love will choose to live again? Perhaps it is the realization that rebuilding life means more than just gluing the old pieces back together. What we get back will not be the same: either it will be the battered shell of what was lost, or it will be the familiar transformed by new wisdom, new gratitude, and new humility.

Those who have come back from loss through faith tell us the story of grace. They realize in new ways the value of each day, each relationship, and each opportunity.

Tradition assigns to the Apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus patronage of those who find themselves at the bottom of life and who face the temptation not to start over. Our Dominican Shrine of St. Jude annually organizes nine days of common prayer for those seeking a renewal of hope. Such prayers ask for more than the restoration of the past, they seek the new thriving that actually derives profit from the experience of loss.

In these days when so many look to come fully alive again, the Shrine invites you to share your petitions for yourself or others who need to challenge a dead end with God’s gift of hope. Cards for these intentions will be placed at the statues of St. Jude in each church. You can return them to the church offices, or by leaving them in a basket at the shrines or the collection basket, or giving them to a Friar.

We will pray for your intentions during the days of our Novena from October 20 to October 28. The Novena prayers will be said at each of the Masses celebrated in our parish during these days. At two Masses each day there will be sermon preached for those making the Novena. The preached Masses will be at 1 pm at St. Catherine’s and at 6 pm at St. Vincent’s. On Sunday the preached Mass will be at 10 am at St. Catherine’s and 6 pm at St. Vincent’s. Several Friars will be assisting in the preaching of this novena, and each of them will address the of loss and recovery in the life of faith.

Please consider joining this work of prayer.

Fr. Walter

September 30, 2017

Serving a Good Meal – Pastor’s Reflection (October 1, 2017)

An Italian cookbook gave me a crucial insight into ministry. The author pointed out that a successful meal features a harmonious succession of flavors and avoids either a discordant multiplicity of tastes or the dominance of one. That insight gets up from the dining table as wisdom for making people comfortable and keeping them engaged.

I have come to see the life of the parish, and each Mass, as a meal at which we would like people to sit down, be comfortable, and engage. What makes for a good diner makes for a true worshipper, delighted in receiving, responsive in thanks and praise, undefended in conversation (with God and with neighbor). Each parish event, and the whole life of the parish community, demands to be crafted as an experience for people, and someone needs to be tasked with viewing it as a whole and keeping its balance, and hence its flavor.

I feel that charge falls to me and I take it very seriously. When I perceive that a Mass has a proper balance of elements nothing rivals my serenity, and when an element breaks the equilibrium I feel like a cook who must serve a dish, knowing there is too much salt in it. At such a moment I taste frustration, even if the guests overlook what lands maladroitly on their palates.

If every dish needs salt and pepper, every liturgy needs information. Since the Parish gathers at Mass, Mass becomes a moment to inform the parish about its life. So we use the bulletin, the announcements, posters, and signs to grab and hold the attention of congregants. But if too much salt ruins a dish, too much information drowns out the other flavors of worship. When we over-tell people about everything, they remember nothing. In my years of pastoring I have erred in both directions. Important events were undersubscribed because people were not told of them, and sometimes people did not come because they had been told too often, in too many media.

So this Sunday we offer a new strategy for conveying information about ourselves, geared to getting the word out and to minimizing verbiage at Mass.

This Sunday we are presenting our first Parish Handbook. We hope it successfully welcomes newcomers to our midst, helps regulars plan their parish year, and invites others into our community. To have an overview of a parish like ours adds a level of understanding and makes for informed participation.

The Handbook pulls a great deal of introductory information out of the Weekly Parish Bulletin. So this will now come to you in a new format that allows more presentation of current happenings. It will also include prayer intentions for the week that will keep you connected to the feasts and concerns of the moment and prepare you for the Sunday ahead.

Because of the comprehensive invitation to prayer in the bulletin, we hope to shorten the petitions we use at Mass.

We think parishioners and regular visitors have become used to taking a worship leaflet as they arrive for Mass. These will now feature on the front cover the information you need for that Mass, such as second collections, Food Sunday, guest preachers, etc. We hope this will shorten pulpit announcements.

These changes come to you courtesy of a sustained collaboration by many parishioners and parish staff. As I say in my introduction to the Handbook, I think this is the most lovely feature of the book and the strategy. I hope you will share my gratitude at the dedication and talent that supports this life we share.

I hope that the handbook and bulletin can become means of evangelization; allowing us to make a healthful and balanced presentation of ourselves. When people read these pages may they recognize that the Gospel is where we get our flavor.

Fr. Walter

September 16, 2017

Living in the Economy of Gift – Pastor’s Reflection (September 18, 2017)

It has been said that we begin to worship when we realize that we have received as gifts what we could never buy, earn, take, or make.  Once begun, the life of worship intensifies this very awareness.  We begin to recognize the gifts of the elements, then the nurture and beauty that flow from them.  I am quick to recognize sun, air, and water as gifts, then I realize that even though I paid for my bread, that loaf has origins in what has been freely bestowed.  Next, I realize that you are a gift, for you supply what lacks in me.  Most slowly I perceive the gift of my life, not only in general but in particular.

Christian worship, as established by Jesus in his own humanity, has at its roots an intense gratitude for the works of God, and this comes from souls who have received themselves as one of those works.  When I accept how the divine artisanship has molded my individuality, then I can be free from the spirit of comparison that stifles so much of our real thriving. Grateful for myself, I come to the Mass as a response of thanksgiving to God’s initiatives and so fulfill the commission given to me in my baptism. This, more than hearing a sermon, or singing a hymn, comprises the essential work of those who attend Mass. This posture is more than prayerful.  Grateful people live differently.

If I receive myself as a gift, I give myself as a gift. If I recognize the gift of God in me then I perceive myself as a living surplus.  This outlook marks the People of God. If the Eucharist is the food of the Church then self-donation is the strength it nourishes. Christian women and men have cheerfully given their lives away as martyrs, missionaries, and as every kind of religious.  They have done the same as Christian spouses, and this same spirit impels many professionals to take less pay and work for the Church.  Self-reception and self-donation sets in motion the phalanx of volunteers, without which the life of the Church cannot be imagined, and without which the life of our parish simply is not possible.

In coming days, the parish will present you with opportunities to make a donation of your time, your talent, and your energy.  God invites each of us to fulfillment through self-donation, but His call comes to each of us in His time and in His way.  The parish needs you to help, but even more it needs you to discern the ways in which you are called to help.

Any self-giving brings us full circle. Having recognized abundance we become part of abundance.  I perceive that I live because of gifts more than because of earnings and makings, and that perception impels me to become part of the giftedness of others.  As I survey our parish I perceive that it thrives on an array of services it could never pay for, and by that it testifies to the God who has gathered it.

Next Sunday, September 24th, please come with open ears and an open heart to consider what growth God has readied you for.

Fr. Walter

September 09, 2017

Religious Education

Dear Families,

As summer fades to fall and your children are beginning their new school year, we are finalizing preparations for another exciting year of religious education in St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena Parish. I have spent the summer participating in additional training for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), creating new materials, and planning for our Ignite Middle School Program and new High School Youth group. I’m looking forward to welcoming your children back for another year of learning and growing in our relationships with Christ.

For the upcoming school year, we will once again offer CGS Levels 1, 2, and 3 for children from 3-years-old to 6th grade. Level 1 serves children from 3-years-old through Kindergarten. Level 2 serves 1st through 3rd grades. Level 3 serves 4th through 6th grades. In addition to CGS, we’ll also continue to offer our Graded Program at St. Vincent Ferrer for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I will facilitate our CGS sessions, while our familiar and dedicated team of catechists will lead our Graded Program. I will also facilitate the Ignite Middle School Youth Ministry program for 7th and 8th graders and our new High School Youth group. Sessions will begin the week of September 17th 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, Ignite, and the High School Program will be held at St. Catherine of Siena.

CGS was developed by two Catholic laywomen in the 1950’s in Rome, guided by the principles of Dr. Maria
Montessori. CGS religious education materials are based on the Bible, Catholic Liturgy and Sacraments, Tradition, and Church teachings. The program fosters a hands-on, experiential learning environment in which children can grow in their relationship with Christ and His Church. 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. If you’d like more information about CGS, please visit If you’d like to visit the Atrium and see a demonstration presentation of CGS materials, please contact me. All are welcome!

4th, 5th, and 6th Graded Program
The graded program is a more traditional religious education program than CGS. This program utilizes textbooks rather than hands-on materials. It is ideal for children who thrive in a more structured learning environment.

Ignite Middle School Youth and High School Youth
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 newly formed High School Program will meet every other week and will be centered on fellowship, service, and Bible study.

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, Thursdays at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

CGS Level 3 (4th grade – 6th grade) – Sundays at 11:15 AM – 12:45 pm (Following the 10:00 am Mass),
Mondays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Wednesdays at 5:00 – 6:30 pm

4th/5th/6th Graded Program (at St. Vincent Ferrer) – Tuesdays at 3:30 – 5:00 pm

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

High School Youth – Every other Tuesday at 5:30 – 7:00 pm

I will be at each one of the Sunday Masses at both of our churches this weekend, September 10th, to say hello and register your children for religious education. Please stop by! If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me at 212-988-8300, x186 or I’m looking forward to a wonderful year!

Yours in Christ,
Lisa Harrelson
Coordinator of Religious Education

September 02, 2017

Breaking the Cycle – Pastor’s Reflection (September 3, 2017)

On Labor Day we honor laborers everywhere, but we also contemplate our own labor as we resume the ordinary rhythms of life. “Labor” here refers not only to the job we do but to the range of commitments that structure life.Hopefully summer’s reprieve shows us how much “ordinary time” fulfills us, even as it directs our life within a channel of discipline.

Of course, everyone else will be picking up the thread of their routine, and they will be in our face. Up-close living and dealing have returned to elicit a whole range of virtues from us. People make up a huge portion of our labor. Consider that UN week now hovers on the horizon, and naturally we will want to be the face of tolerance amid the traffic congestion and security tension. That week reveals New York City on steroids, and highlights the challenges that make the city very great and very difficult.  What a crush of cultures and politics, events and anxieties. These elements combine to disclose a global city, which will provide a fruitful, very timely object of contemplation.

What makes such an assembly possible?
What makes such a city possible?
What makes our routine of life in this city possible?
What is the assiduous practice of tolerance?

But as we come back together over coffee or cocktails, on the corner, at intermission or after mass, we will speak of recent intolerance and we will rehearse that words and actions of hate that have shocked us. Yet if I chronicle the bigotry of another I do not get very far because I lack the ability to make another person become tolerant. What I can do is refuse to let the sights and sounds of intolerance form me. If I become intolerant of those I deem intolerant, then what has happened to me?  I face rather the difficult paradox of virtue. As the climate of tolerance weakens I must pledge to become more tolerant, just as my only successful response to the secular age can be to become more Christian.

In my life as a confessor, as a brother in community, as a pastor in a parish, I have discerned that there is a “how” to tolerance. Some lives are not ruled by prejudice, and that freedom has roots in a clear spiritual practice.

First, tolerant people have appropriate self-esteem. The tolerant person accepts his or her own makeup as a coming together of gifts and deficits and so enters freely into the interdependence natural to human living. This positive self-regard means that competition and comparison no longer need be the source of validation. When tolerant people also possess the gift of faith they may also perceive themselves as a work of God, so that their validation lies in the fact of His creative artistry. If I may delight to be myself in all my incompleteness, then I have room in my life to be delighted by your gifts and recognize the ways in which they complete me.

The second prerequisite of tolerance flows from the first. Tolerant people recognize that they live in a personal and collective history, in which time is experienced as a movement. Culture, technology, taste, and social patterns develop with great blessings, but also at great cost. Persons of Faith recognize that in the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation, God incorporated this aspect of human life into His plan, so that the Church herself develops in history, both happily and painfully. Thus, tolerant people recognize that they live within the movement of time, which belongs to God and is moving toward Him.

Where people grasp this they can transcend the instinct to blame. If I realize that things are in movement I can stop looking for someone to hold responsible when my history, or our history, causes me pain. The gifts of technology amaze me, but they also take me aback with the disruption they cause.  I look at all the empty storefronts in our neighborhood and I am saddened by the unfurnished environment they create and I am more saddened by the loss of jobs they betoken. I am seeing the evidence of technological and market forces far beyond us, and yet I would like to find a person or group of persons to blame for changing so much of my world. If change has scrambled the local patterns of life, the political scene shows the same effect writ large.

I see individuals and groups trying to assign personal blame for systemic dislocation. The economic loss and sense of exclusion caused by swift change bring understandable anxiety and frustration. Nevertheless, people searching for a scapegoat are ugly, whether they are a crowd, or an individual manipulating that crowd. My own danger lies in making the scapegoaters, my scapegoats. If all I do is place my anxieties on their heads, I get nowhere. I become ugly, suspicious, and coarse.

Think of the Lord’s Passion. Christ placed himself on the receiving end of scapegoating and refused to look for someone to blame, “Father, forgive them…” He made Himself the scapegoat, so that in the light of His victory, His followers would no longer resort to scapegoating. You and I are equipped by His constant gift of sacraments to pass through great tension and frustration and not take it out on anyone. The Cross of Jesus broke the cycle of human violence because of his fidelity to His God and Himself. He positions us in the world as breakers of the same cycle. The power of the Crucified and Risen Lord now lodges in us so that we might face human complexity in light of our
destination in God.

If our end is real to us, then it will be real to others as we welcome them on the same blessed path.

End-of-Summer Peace!
Fr. Walter

August 26, 2017

Mission Trip to Peru – Fr. Innocent Smith (August 27, 2017)

In early August, the Frassati Fellowship of Young Adults organized a ten-day mission trip to Peru. Fr. Dominic Bump and I served as chaplains for the trip, along with two Franciscan friars and a diocesan priest from New York. Fr. Walter asked me to share with you some of the experiences of the trip.

The main part of the trip was spent in Laderas, a poor suburb outside of Lima, where thousands of people live in makeshift houses. The purpose of our visit was two-fold: to help with the material needs of the people of Laderas by building new homes for families without adequate housing, and to see to their spiritual needs by visiting families, offering house blessings, and giving the opportunity for people to go to confession and receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Each day, most of the thirty young adults worked on the houses under the direction of a local contractor, while the priests were led from house to house under the direction of women from the parish of Laderas. During these visits, the young adults rotated so as to get the experience of visiting the families, while at the same time not overwhelming those we visited with too many people! While several of the priests spoke Spanish fluently, Fr. Dominic and I were able to receive the assistance of members of our group who served as translators, even assisting (under the seal!) with the sacrament of reconciliation.

For me, the visit afforded many opportunities to see the grace of God at work in our chance encounters. At one point, my group climbed to the top of one of the tall hills surrounding the main part of the village to visit a woman who was very sick. For some reason we weren’t able to see her, but on the way up we met a man walking his bicycle up the hill, and he invited us to bless his home. This led to us then being invited to bless a series of other homes on the ridge. It was a reminder that sometimes failing at what we set out to do can lead to other opportunities to do God’s will. On another occasion, I noticed two beautiful cats on a door step, so I stopped to take a picture. While I was doing this, a woman opened the door, either by chance or to see what was going on. This led to us being invited in to do a house blessing. A reminder of the apostolic efficacy of a love of cats!

Some of our home visits revealed a distressing aspect of life in this community. It is characteristic for homes to have at least three generations living together, but unfortunately this is often because the men of the second generation have abandoned their wives or partners. There’s a tragic cycle of infidelity and
abandonment that seems to keep repeating itself. And yet at the same time one could sense joy and faith in the midst of the pain and suffering. It was a reminder for me of the importance of working to encourage growth in the virtues that make healthy and happy families possible.

The trip was also a chance to encounter anew my own Dominican heritage. On August 8, the feast of
St. Dominic, we celebrated Mass in a makeshift chapel on the top of one of the tall hills of Laderas in an open air area illuminated by a few flashlights. I preached, assisted by a translator, about how St. Dominic would climb the mountain of Fanjeaux during the ten years he spent at the first Dominican nuns’ monastery of Prouille in southern France, a mountain of similar dimensions to that which we were on. At the end of the trip, our group had the chance to spend a day in Lima, visiting the shrines of St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin de Porres, and St. Juan Macias, three great 16th century Dominican saints from Lima. Encountering these saints was a wonderful chance to be renewed in the spirit of St. Dominic – now I’ll have a new sense of connection with them when I look at their icons in our Guadalupe triptych at St. Vincent Ferrer!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Innocent Smith, o.p.

August 19, 2017

The Holy Preaching: Pondering 150 Years of Dominican Parish Life – Pastor’s Reflection (August 20, 2017)

The Dominican Friars have exercised parish ministry in this area since 1867.  We were joined by our Sisters in 1880s and since then primary and secondary education have formed part of the ministry here.  As the hospital complex emerged along York Avenue, tending the sick came to be a signature work of the Dominicans.  Today, our parish holds two Dominican churches, two communities of Friars, two communities of Sisters, two high schools, and a hospital chaplaincy.  It also contains an administrative center for the Order. But what has shaped the whole enterprise over these generations is the common life the Brothers and Sisters share at home.

Today, if you walk into the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer or the Church of St. Catherine of Siena you will find outstanding architecture, and you will find paintings, carvings, and stained glass deployed in beautiful and evangelical ways.  But these elements serve a purpose beyond pleasing the eye and informing the mind.  The agenda of our churches, and hence of our parish, comes clear in a paradox you can see played out all day long.  On the one hand St. Catherine’s and St. Vincent’s are places of great grandeur and they accommodate crowds gathered for solemn worship.  On the other hand, someone can walk off the street into either church, for the first time, stand alone in it, and feel instantly at home.

Put simply, the churches preach. They proclaim to you the all-powerful and all-knowing God, and they make you at home with Him.  Neither part of this paradox compromises the other.  God is awesome, and close enough to sit with for a good cry. Our buildings convey this perception of God to you, because the life of our Order conveys it to us.

By St. Dominic’s design, dating from 1216, the men and women of the Order live an intense life in common.  We pray together, and we place our income at the disposal of the Community.  We share our working lives in ministry and our leisure hours at the end of the day. We all receive training in a very ancient way of life, and each community shares the task of applying that tradition in our time and place.  Most religious orders could claim this list of traits, but St. Dominic added to them the work of study.  Every Dominican accepts study as his or her manual labor, and so we should study assiduously even when there is nothing to prepare.  Here is the intimacy of the Order; the Dominican, the book, and God.  Here we learn to be in awe before Him and to befriend Him at the same time.

This common life, especially study, ordered the environment in which you pray, as it continues to order the preaching you hear on Sunday and the education our students receive on Monday.  It gives shape to the way we form the faith of adults and children: it molds the way we steward resources, and collaborate with staff and volunteers.

In the ancient days of our Order, our houses were often referred to as a “Holy Preaching,” not just because the Dominicans gave sermons but because their way of life proclaimed the Gospel to their contemporaries.  Our hope is that this parish will preach by what we say and sing, by how we invest our resources, by how we treat our elders and our young, members of long-standing and those who just joined.

If we take this mission seriously then we can set about deepening our own life of faith, and we can present that faith to those who have left its practice, or who know nothing of Christ and His Gospel.  The key to all preaching, whether individual or communal, is recognizing that we have wealth to share.

Summer Peace!
Fr. Walter

August 14, 2017

Giving Thanks – Pastor’s Reflection (August 13, 2017)

When you think of “prayer,” what comes to mind?  I think for most of us prayer consists in asking: asking for help, asking for a favor, asking for forgiveness. We tend to start praying when we reach the borders of our self-sufficiency.  I ask for help when I cannot do for myself.  We never admit this, but that makes prayer vaguely uncomfortable, like having to ask a relative for a loan because I am overdrawn at the bank.  How much more satisfying to look upon my possessions, my body, and even my relationships, and be able to say, “Look what I did.”  But the truth of our efforts always runs up against the truth of limits and we are back to prayer, and we are still sheepish in God’s presence.  I am praying because I have failed, or someone else has failed, or nature has failed me.

But take a second look; human nature is designed with limits.  We live within boundaries of longevity and strength, understanding and communication.  So we might ask whether the One who crafted our nature intended us to be uncomfortable within its confines.  That Christ assumed this nature testifies to the contrary.  His Gospel represents an invitation to embrace it, with all its limitations, as our way to God, and so the Scriptures and the Sacraments intimate a deep transformation of how we see our humanity and our prayer.  In the light of faith we come to see our limits not as frustrations but as openings to the personal experience of God’s goodness.

Humanly we know this truth.  When I fall in love I recognize someone who supplies for what I like, who complements my own real but limited gifts.  God acts in Christ to widen this realization to include the whole of life.  So He invites us to befriend the deepest truth of ourselves, and to do this by recognizing how much we have received that we could never have received by toil, ingenuity, or merit.  This is not putting us in our place, but helping us see how privileged is our place from the very beginning.

So I ask you: how is your own life shaped by the truth of favor, for favor tells the truth of you and me.  If we have received Christ in the Eucharist, then unqualified love has entered the very heart of us as a consolation and liberation, as a summons to change and a gift of understanding.  When we “taste and see that the Lord is good,” we remember that Jesus made a banquet of his blood for us in the past, and that we savor it in the present moment as a real pledge of life beyond the limits that now define me.

This perspective grows each time we make a practice of gratitude.  Here is the real conscious work of remembering and recognizing. When I set my mind to it I recognize that for all the time I spend with my problems, the deepest truth of me is gift.  It has been good to live, and to live as myself.  It has been good to share life with those confided to me, and with those to whom I have been confided.  I also wonder what my very struggles with handicap and circumstance have taught me about the reality of life.

At the height of summer there is an opportunity for gratitude for the gifts at the foundation of our lives.  Its practice will give us the wherewithal to keep growing through another winter.

Fr. Walter

July 29, 2017



Cooperator Brother, Jubilarian

Born: July 10, 1938
Professed: July 25, 1961
Died: July 15, 2017

Brother Martin Michael Downey, O.P., died peacefully in the morning of July 15, 2017, at Rosary Hill Home, Hawthorne, NY at the age of 79.   For over fifty years, Br. Downey served the province and the Church, ministering for considerable time at both the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, and the provincial headquarters in New York City.  He is survived by his sister Theresa Striker, his nephews Robert, Ken, Justin, Sidney, Joal, and his niece Rebecca.

Brother Downey was born on July 10, 1938, in Gloucester, NJ, to Joseph John and Veronica Imelda (née Manion) Downey, and named Martin William. He attended St. Mary’s Grammar School and Gloucester Catholic High School, both in Gloucester, NJ.

He entered the Dominican Novitiate on July 24, 1960, at St. Joseph Priory in Somerset, OH, and received the religious name Michael. He made his first profession there on July 25, 1961.  After profession, he was assigned to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. In 1963, he was assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Priory in New York City. In February 1967, he was assigned to St. Stephen’s Priory in Dover, MA, where he made his solemn profession on July 25, 1967.  While at Stephen’s Priory, he taught CCD and helped with youth retreats in addition to assisting with maintenance of the priory.

On July 5, 1971, Brother Downey was assigned again to the Dominican House of Studies where he served as Registrar and Secretary of Studies for the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (PFIC).  While there, he earned a BA (1973) and an MA (1977) in Religious Studies from Providence College, taking classes during the summers and during a brief leave of absence from his duties at the PFIC.  In 1975, he was appointed Assistant to the Student Master for Cooperator Brothers. In 1977, he began serving as Guest Master of the Dominican Villa in Sea Bright, NJ, during the summers.

He was assigned to Sacred Heart Priory in Jersey City, NJ, on May 12, 1980, and then reassigned on November 21, 1980, to St. Vincent Ferrer Priory in New York City, where he was appointed as Assistant Director of the St. Martin de Porres Guild and the St. Jude Dominican Missions.  In 1983, he was appointed Mission Secretary for the Province, and in 1988 Director of the St. Jude Dominican Missions.

On June 8, 1994, he was assigned to the Dominican House of Studies, where he served as Economic Administrator for three terms.  He also served on the Vocation Council and Joint Formation Council.

On August 2, 2002, he was assigned to St. Vincent Ferrer Priory in New York City and appointed Assistant Provincial Economic Administrator.  After nine years, he concluded his service in 2011.  He remained active in the community serving as Guest Master as he had done during many other assignments as well.

In April of 2017, Brother Downey was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  In May, he moved to Rosary Hill Home to receive palliative care from the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne.

Brother Downey’s body was received at St. Vincent Ferrer Church on July 19, 2017 at 6:45 pm. The Office of the Dead was celebrated that evening. Very Rev. Kenneth Letoile, O.P., Prior Provincial, was the principal celebrant and preacher at the Mass of Christian Burial celebrated at 10:00 am the next day at St. Vincent Ferrer Church. Interment followed at All Souls Cemetery, Pleasantville, NY.

July 22, 2017

Visitor’s Reflections on the Sanctuary at Lourdes (July 23, 2017)

It is with a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving to Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Bernadette that I share with you the message of Lourdes on my return from that special place of prayer. The Virgin Mary greeted St. Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto of Marsabielle on 11th February 1858 and for a total of eighteen apparitions ending on 16th July, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During these special moments Mary gave Bernadette numerous messages and identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.”

The Blessed Virgin asked St. Bernadette to arrange with the parish priest to build a chapel on the location of the apparitions, and that people be invited to come in Procession, offer prayers and petitions as well as to do penance for sinners. Sixty-three years ago the U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage in response to this plea began by taking small groups of pilgrims from the U.S. and Canada to visit and pray at this holy grotto, and today we continue this very impressive project. I have personally made fifty-four pilgrimages to Lourdes in the past forty years as part of the National Rosary group.

The nineteenth century Lourdes of Bernadette’s time was a small community of a few hundred people and from these simple and humble beginnings we have a town that swells to 5 million annually during the pilgrimage season. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, 2008, more than 6.5 million pilgrims came to Lourdes.

Many people will ask me “have you witnessed any miracles?” My immediate response is to make a distinction between a miracle and a cure. Then I add that every pilgrim, in a real sense, has experienced a cure whether that be in some way physical, spiritual, or even emotional. One would have to have a certain hardness of heart not to return home from Lourdes differently because of the experience. That is what a pilgrimage is all about. That we are open to God’s benevolent love and the pomptings of the Holy Spirit as it moves within us. I thank Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Bernadette for the many special graces which have accrued to me in my past forty years as a result of my sharing my priestly ministry with so many people who have become part of our Lourdes Family.
– Fr. Joseph P. Allen, o.p.

My recent experience in Lourdes was comprised of a number of “firsts”: my first trip outside the continental U.S., my first pilgrimage; and the first time I would not be able to joyfully recount my travel experiences to my mother.

So, instead, I will joyfully recount my experience in Lourdes to you. Where to start? First, my travel companions are, without exception, the finest people I have ever met. Special mention must be made of Fr. Joseph Allen, who made this pilgrimage to Lourdes both possible and beautiful. The French people that we met along the way treated us with much warmth and affection and made us all feel as though we were home, and not in a foreign country. Lourdes, itself, is a beautiful country village, nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains.  Lourdes has changed very little since the time of Saint Bernadette Soubirous (January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879), from the cobblestone streets to the
charming village homes and store fronts.

As you can imagine, Lourdes is adorned with many beautiful churches, as well as a magnificent
Basilica.  But, of course, the focus of our pilgrimage was the Grotto, where our Blessed Mother
appeared to Saint Bernadette.  The Grotto is a natural cave, made from rock. An altar has been placed within the Grotto, so that Mass may, and is, celebrated throughout the day there. Being in a place where our Blessed Mother appeared is an extraordinary experience, which words cannot adequately describe. And, so, I pray that one day you also will have the opportunity to experience for yourselves and imagine the joy of what it must have been like for Saint Bernadette, at the Grotto, being in the holy presence of Our Blessed Mother.
– Michael Silverstein

Our pilgrimage to Lourdes with Father Allen was a spiritually beautiful and peaceful trip. The deep beauty of the daily masses and the candlelight processions, as well as being with people of the same faith from all over the world, was very moving. Having mass in the grotto, as well as Sunday Mass in an underground cathedral with 18,000 people in all different languages, was amazing. And learning more about Saint Bernadette’s story and seeing where she lived was inspiring. Also, our group was wonderful and we had a lot of fun together. The trip made me feel closer to God and renewed my spirit. All in all, the pilgrimage was heavenly!
– Katie O’Neill

When I reflect on the trip to Lourdes a few things rise to the surface. First, a change of heart; seeing so many in wheelchairs and stretchers, and various differently abled people of all ages and races,
swiftly caused a change in heart regarding my health situation. I immediately became grateful for all the blessings in my life and will no longer focus on what I have or don’t have. Second, the idea of service; assisting another person by wheeling them to various sites and activities became an opportunity for me to reach beyond my own self-interest and be aware of and serve another without judgment or reward. Third, the power of prayer; the awesome nature of praying the same prayer with thousands of others in the same place in multiple languages was powerful and moving. Though, I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, this trip has provided me with a focus and desire to know God is alive in my life.
– Charlie Rubino

My trip to Lourdes was an unanticipated pleasure. You are joined and united with people, from throughout the world in faith, mind, and spirit. There are so many services that one does not have the opportunity to engage in on a regular basis, Mass in multiple languages, anointing of the sick, and a candlelight procession with thousands of people. It is a powerful experience to break down all walls and boundaries and experience love for all. Your mind becomes uncluttered as you receive a spiritual gift of clarity and love and our Lord in the present. It is a trip I will treasure, one that I was able to experience it with Father Allen and friends and a new path that I will be able to follow throughout my life.
– Lee Ann Rubino