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

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

April 09, 2016

Please Consider – Pastor’s Reflection (April 10, 2016)

We come now to one of the most challenging pieces of this parish merger. The new parish will need to articulate a philosophy of music, and it will need a coherent and sustainable Mass schedule. As I will explain, these two issues need to be resolved concurrently. I hope that our strong spirit of charity and generosity of these past nine months will support us as we reach out to address things that lie so close to people’s hearts.

Well over a hundred people took the time to give us reflections on music in parish worship. I want to thank them for their candor, insight, and conviction regarding this crucial aspect of our life of worship. This material was of great assistance.

I will continue to seek advice from laity, Sisters, and Friars as this process goes forward. The Parish Council will be reviewing, as a single document, the job description for the Music Director, and the proposed Mass Schedule. I will present it to them for review at our meeting on April 11, and I hope to announce it to you on April 17.

I wish that the process of consultation would simply yield a decision. However, I have come to see that no process provides this service. It falls to me to make these decisions. I will do so and take the responsibility for them.

I would like to share with you the principles and observations that will guide me as I consult on and then decide on these matters.

As to the schedule:

The Cardinal as head of the Local Church has mandated that we become a united faith community.  Many dedicated parishioners, and my Dominican Brothers and Sisters, have worked heroically to bring this about. Spiritual and practical benefits have already resulted for those who have chosen to embrace the new Community. The community has grown through new patterns of worship, study, and common life. Consolidation of administration has already yielded substantial cost savings. Addressing the question of music and schedule will be essential to the completion of this task. The Archdiocese will review the viability of our current arrangement in just over a year’s time.

The proper pastoral care of this parish demands a schedule of services that is not duplicative, so that the parish clergy can be present to the whole parish on any given Sunday or Feast. (The one complaint people address to me directly is that they do not see me.)

In our Parish, the Cardinal has designated St. Vincent Ferrer as the Parish Church. The schedule of services needs to respect this.

In addition, particular circumstances of our neighborhood demand that St. Catherine’s schedule of Masses should complement that of St. John Nepomucene, which is now established as a geographical parish for the far east 60’s and lower 70’s.

As to Music:

Music plays an essential role in the prayer and formation of our people. It complements the work of preaching in crucial ways, and it sets a distinctive tone for the life and worship of the parish.

To fulfill its responsibilities, liturgical music must first serve the prayer of our regular worshippers.

A number of our parishioners express a desire to worship without music, and we must provide for them.

However, the clear mind of the Church is that music at Sunday Mass is a norm, and so the principal Eucharists should have it. At the same time, there should be a variety of tone in the music that is played and sung, so that every temperament may be drawn into worship.

Both churches in the parish have a living tradition of hiring first rank organists. This complements the essential place of music in the whole preaching of the parish.

The Music Director of our new Parish needs to be a fine artist and performer. He or she will also serve as a major collaborator with the Pastor in promoting the formation of the parishioners, the vibrancy of our common life, and the prudential administration of the parish.

Both churches in the parish have a living tradition of hiring professional singers to lead, support, and supplement the singing of the congregation. This is not customary in other parts of the country. However, the transient environment and limited volunteer pool of the city suggests that congregations need the extra support.

We have parishioners who feel called to sing chorally in support of parish worship. The Parish needs to give scope to their talents and their generosity.

Both churches in the parish have spent more on music than the ordinary income, provided in the offertory, could provide. To maintain and sustain the core musical values of the parish we need to work with a single music director and body of professional singers for the whole parish.

The schedule of Masses needs to facilitate this, and to allow the Music Director to be available on Saturday afternoons for weddings, which in our parish are frequent.

I hope that, when they are published, you will read the new Mass Schedule and Job Description for our Music Director in the light of the foregoing.


Fr. Walter