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

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


June 24, 2017

A Piece of Our History

SVF Letter

June 28, 2016

New Mass Schedule

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

Mass and Confessions at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer

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

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

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

Adoration
Wednesdays: 7:30–8:30 pm

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

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

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

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

Adoration
Thursdays: 4:00–5:00 pm

June 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

 

I.     Singing the Ordinary of the Mass

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

III.     Variations on a Theme

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

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

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

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

 

Peace!

Fr. Walter

June 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Peace!

Fr. Walter

 

May 07, 2016

How Shall I Praise You? #1 – Pastor’s Reflection (May 8, 2016)

As we move to implement the new Mass schedule, and to define the music program that goes with it, I would like to reflect on some of our hopes for this new arrangement. I have written to you already about the financial economy and pastoral presence these arrangements will facilitate.

We also seek to offer the parish a wider palette of worship. In both churches clergy and laity have worked hard in recent years to develop the choral Solemn Mass and to place it at the heart of the parish’s life. This practice accords with the mind of the Church and serves two of her core concerns. Most evidently, at Solemn Mass we give maximal scope to the arts of the organist and the singers. Such a liturgy places virtuosity at the service of prayer. At Solemn Mass, music elevates and focuses the prayer of the individual and unites the prayer of the group. It enables each person to join the song of the whole and so experience vocally the nature of the Church herself. Worshipping this way serves the needs of those who want to place the life of the senses under the governance of the life of the Spirit.

Solemn Mass also reveals the Church. At Pentecost we recognize her as the Holy Spirit’s work of orchestrating human gifts in the harmonious and pleasing service of God. At Mass this truth takes flesh in the profusion of ministries. At Solemn Mass we hope to see the priest, the deacon, the reader, the cantor, the choir, the varied ranks of servers, the sacristans, and the ushers. These are not functionaries putting on a ceremony. Each of these persons fulfills a particular task in God’s presence. What each does can be called a liturgy, or a ministry, or a service. (Here is the origin of calling what happens in church a service – “nice service, Father.”)

It follows that the Solemn Mass takes pride of place in the parish’s round of worship. The initiation (baptism of adults, first communion, confirmation, reception into the Church) of the members takes place in this context, and we use this mode of worship to mark the Lord’s Day, the principal feasts of the year, and essential moments in the life of the parish. It will be fitting then for solemn ordinarily to be celebrated in the parish church, St. Vincent Ferrer, at the high point of the Lord’s Day, Noon on Sunday. At times though we will want to celebrate Solemn Mass at St. Catherine of Siena, as on her feast day, on the processional feasts of the Church, such as Palm Sunday, on feasts related to the health care ministry, such as St. Gianna Bretta Molla. Solemn Mass ought ordinarily to last from sixty to seventy minutes.

As a regular practice Solemn Mass challenges many because of the time it takes.  This applies in a particular way to those with children.  For this group we need to connect liturgical beauty and active participation with expeditious practice, and accessible repertoire. Such are our hopes for the 10 AM “High Mass” at St. Catherine’s. We would like for those with children, or with time constraints, to have a fine experience of liturgical music, the opportunity to sing God’s praise, connect with other committed people and be out within an hour. We are confident that during the September to May “Parish Year” we can serve this pattern of worship with our time of Bible Stories with Mrs. Getcher (“Miss Dolores”). For those who do not know, Dolores welcomes 4 -6 year olds at the beginning of Mass and keeps them until the offertory, when she and all the children present the gifts. St. Joseph’s Hall at St. Catherine’s will now provide an incomparably warm and well-equipped setting for this service. Dolores says she will be ready to go on September 18.

St. Catherine’s also possesses St. Dominic’s Hall which will enable us to round out Mass in fine style with parish coffees in a light-filled, inviting room, with all the conveniences. Blessed we are to have fine and distinctive spaces that serve the life of the community so very well.

Of course, it is easy to write well of dreams. There will be much to do to make these two Masses a thriving reality. A principal determinant here will be what people decide to do. As we offer choices, we also put people in the position of having to make a choice. It seems that often the discernment of this will demand weighing location against ambience, and vice versa. Perhaps working through this calculus may yield a deeper awareness of Catholic worship, and of one’s capacity to engage it at a particular time in one’s life.

I would like to continue reflections like this over the next few weeks, so that when the Sunday schedule changes on July 3, we can come to that moment with the consideration and charity that have marked our merger to this date.

I hope that this day we will have the chance to be in contact with our mothers and grandmothers and that we will count the precious medium of memory as a real connection.

 

Peace!

Fr. Walter

 

 

March 26, 2016

Countering Fear – Pastor’s Reflection (March 27, 2016)

What is the power of this day for you?

We easily domesticate Easter. It serves to celebrate Spring’s arrival, or at least coming into view. This feast of feasts arranges a bouquet for the senses. Spring flowers delight winter weary eyes and noses. In this denim age we retain the right to array ourselves in crisp pastels. We will wear them to a decadent brunch after Mass and put off the rigors of Lent. The triumphant hymn singing and organ playing of this day cannot help but lift us out of the doldrums.

Easter Sunday brings a sigh of relief for tired clergy. If we liken the parish year to a work week, then Easter is Thursday night. We start quietly to dream about summer’s respite.

These things speak to the humanity of priest and people and they are good. But perhaps we could look for more at the Empty Tomb.

The Passion and Death of the Lord set before us the whole array of our fears. Jesus crucified mirrors for us the fear of poverty, stigma, and desertion. He embodies the specter of pain and death. To this sad bouquet of feelings we rarely give voice, but I think they are always with us.  Everyday the homeless in our streets echo the fate of Jesus who fell to the bottom of life.

To this array of unmentionable phobias, God responds with the Empty Tomb of Jesus. It declares the victory of life in the humanity of Jesus, now glorified, and it foretells the same triumph in our own humanity, beginning now.  The Resurrection possesses too much power to be confined to the past when Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene in the Garden. Nor can we lock it away in the future as a distant reward for ourselves.  The force of the Resurrection reaches us now through the sacraments to answer fears now.

Of course that which we fear does not go away, but its power to shame us into compromise, intimidate us into silence, or make us averse to all risk is overcome by the force of life within us. If we take a look at the holy ones of our time, St. John Paul II, Mother Theresa, or Oscar Romero, we see people who had ample reason to fear life. Yet faith enabled them to live undefended lives based on the promise of this day. The Easter faith gave them a new way to deal with the limits of being human.

That Jesus Crucified now lives in glory testifies to us that we have something that cannot be taken away by economic shift, relational fragility, or bodily failure. This Easter faith offers far more than hopeful palliation. It supplies a firm ground for serene living in the present at each stage and stratum of human life.

What a witness this faith gives to our time, when the language of fear permeates the air. It seems to me that the whole political drama enacted before us could be analyzed according to who is afraid of what and of whom. All across the board fear appears as the prime motivator for action and reaction.

We must of course confront the reality of our situation and we cannot evade the issues of the age. At the same time, we have constant recourse to a truth that is more real and more potent than all the forces vying to build empires on the knots in our stomachs.

First of all, the triumph of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit remind us that we always retain sovereignty over our hearts. We cannot make violence, resentment, and suspicion go away, but we do not have to be shaped by them. We can choose rather to be formed by Jesus’ confidence in the providence of the Father, and by His solidarity with every person, even with those killing Him. Thus oriented we make choices directed to the happiness delineated for us in the Gospels and made available in the Blood of the Lamb.

In troubled times may we remember that we already possess that peace which the world cannot give.
Blessed Lent!

Fr. Walter

January 20, 2016

Music at St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena

To learn more about the Spring 2016 music programs at our parish, you may see the upcoming music schedule for the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer and the Church of St. Catherine of Siena.

January 09, 2016

“Listen to Him”: The Holy Preaching of Jesus – Pastor’s Reflection (January 10, 2016)

In this second epiphany, or manifestation of the Lord, the Father not only identifies Jesus as His beloved Son, but commissions Him to preach by telling us to listen to Him. Here begins the public ministry by which, in words and deeds, Jesus will make clear the intent of God regarding us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ, the new Moses, will show us God’s purpose to make His Law an unceasing dynamo of change in our hearts. All of His healings will go beneath the surface of people corroborating this plan to make them loving and living worshippers of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of this ministry will have credibility because that life with God to which He summons us already exist in Him. This love becomes palpable on the Cross, by which that life and love in Him comes to be in us. Thus, Jesus is His own preaching, and His words and deeds clarifies the impression He gives to the eyes of faith, even as a wordless infant.

His continuing ministry will be clear this Sunday at St. Catherine’s when men and women declare themselves for receiving the sacraments at Easter.  I hope it will be palpable next weekend when the St. Catherine’s community takes a close look at its finances.

As I write you these lines I prepare to do a week of retreat preaching for our Dominican Sisters in Nashville. Such a privileged time as retreat serves to disclose what the Lord wants to say to the listeners, and to the speaker. Its greatest gift comes in the particular epiphany of Intimacy with Christ.

Throughout my time in New York I have tried to preach one retreat a year as I think it promotes my own spiritual development which I hope benefits you.

Always we seek to carry preaching beyond the bounds of the Sunday Homily. Thus in Parish Study we usually explore a biblical text or church document in depth. Another preaching people often seek is the overview. They express a desire to go deeper with their faith, or to reconnect with it after having been away from its practice for some time. To meet this need we offer the series entitled “Upper Room” after the place where Jesus disclosed his Eucharistic identity at the Last Supper and assembled His Apostles and His Mother to await the Holy Spirit. We begin this program each January and continue with it until the Day of Pentecost, which falls this year on May 15. Our textbook is the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, whose singular iconography captures so much of the Gospel. For adult Catholics who complete this program I am able to offer the Sacrament of Confirmation on Pentecost. If you would be interested in this program, please know that we will begin to meet this year on January 24 at 4PM, at St. Vincent’s. It would be helpful if you would call Rachel Miller at (212) 744-2080 to let us know. If you do not get the chance to make the call, come anyway.

An essential eloquence of Jesus’ preaching in this parish is the involvement of lay people in its liturgical ministry as readers and as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. This winter we will sponsor retreats for both groups, so that we can offer spiritual support, practical formation, and a formal re-commissioning.  This work will provide another bond of unity in the new parish. The retreat for Lectors will be on January 30, and that for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will be on February 20. Please hold these Saturday Mornings as they apply.

I hope that this weekend you will welcome the young preachers from the House of Studies as they come to ask for your support. Theirs is a good cause, and a real financial need. For all of us, these young men are the future. Please encourage them if you can.

May your winter pass swiftly!

Peace!

Fr. Walter

December 26, 2015

Gathered – Pastor’s Reflection (December 27, 2015)

I hope this finds you savoring a delicious post-Christmas lull. Because of bulletin deadlines, I write you on December 18, and it is all yet to come. But here is something for me to send forward in time for your reading pleasure. Yesterday, December 17, I was opening Christmas cards, and I looked inside one of them to find the greeting, “Happy Holiday to a great people!” I think this is the first time the whole parish community has gotten a Christmas wish. It gave me joyful pause to think that someone would look upon the whole panorama of us and perceive such a wonderful thing. Somehow the welcome received and the cohesiveness experienced made the Holy Spirit’s gathering work tangible to our well-wisher.

Since the season of gatherings still obtains I pause to think of the ways in which I have been gathered.How marvelous, and maybe frightening, is God’s work of inserting me into circles of people. Around the 2015 Christmas tree I recognize that I am a Catholic, an American, a Wagner, a New Yorker in the Archdiocese of New York, a Dominican Friar, serving in the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena, and residing with my Brethren at 411 East 68th, and none of these circles has an opt out clause. Each of these gatherings has true roots in God, and represents a truth of me that I must heed. Each of them continues to shape mind and heart, to stretch me, constrain me, to tire me and energize me.

How is it that the series of my associations seems tailored to me? Together they form a context that serves me a constantly evolving cocktail of challenge, consolation, and perplexity. In really clear moments I perceive this as God’s elixir of happiness, and so I stay in the setting until God places me in a new one.

Somehow the secret of family is the realization that I did not choose them. In faith I perceive that God chose them for me and vice versa. God’s choice of me for a group shows me God’s choice of me for myself. By His grace I hold a place in His world and a summons to His eternity.

As Christmas unfolds, consider that God places His Son in a concentric series of relationships. At its heart lies the uniquely privileged bond He has with Mary and Joseph, but the arrival of shepherds and wise men reveal that the Chosen People, and then every people, will come as givers, not options, into His life. They will comprise the reality that Jesus obeys all the way to the Cross.

In this parish we now experience God’s gathering enterprise in surprising and potent ways, and winter does not portend a let-up. Some highlights:

On Sunday, January 3, the Feast of the Epiphany, we will continue our custom of having a festive Parish Coffee around the tree in the Parlors at St. Vincent’s

On the weekend of January 17, the Finance Council of St. Catherine’s will make presentations after all the Masses on the state of the Parish finances.

On the following weekend, January 24, St. Catherine’s will host a Parish Coffee after the Noon Mass. At this we have a kind of listening session in regard to the previous week’s presentation. From then on, we hope to have Parish Coffees at
St. Catherine’s after the noon Mass on the Third Sunday of each month.

That same afternoon, January 24, at 4 pm, at St. Vincent’s, I will begin a series of presentations which I call “The Upper Room.” These talks provide, I hope, an overview of, and deeper acquaintance with, the content of the Faith. We use the church of St. Vincent Ferrer as our text, and try to read deeply into its art. These talks are open to anyone who would like to reconnect to the Faith or delve deeper into its depths. It also serves to prepare adults for the Sacrament of Confirmation. So if you are an adult Catholic who would like to receive the sacrament, I can confirm you at Pentecost of 2016. This will be May 15 at noon, at St. Catherine’s. Sessions last an hour and fifteen minutes so that participants can attend the 5:30 pm Mass if they wish.

In these pages you will soon see a list of events for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which lasts from January 18 – January 25. Also coming, a schedule of Saturday morning retreats for the winter.

St. Catherine’s will help us through the bleak mid-winter by hosting a celebration of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple on February 2. This promises to be a lovely, candle-lit affirmation of faith. On Friday, February 5, we hope to continue the festivities with a Parish Mardi Gras. Details to follow.

Let me close with the hope that you and I both get some quiet days right about now.

Christmas Peace!

Fr. Walter