From Sister Laura Katharine: Life at Saint Mary’s, Life in Times Square
The Community of Saint John Baptist is a religious order of women in the Episcopal Church. Our convent is in Mendham, about thirty miles due west of New York City, in a quiet, not-quite-rural part of New Jersey. Mendham is a town – officially a “borough” – of around 5,000 people that is very different from midtown Manhattan; but now, once again, the Community has an outpost in the city. In the spring of 2007, after a hiatus of thirty-three years, the Community of St. John Baptist returned to New York and opened Saint Mary’s Mission in the Mission House of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square. In many ways, life is very different for me now, as well as for Sister Deborah Francis; and so the Rector recently asked me to reflect on what it’s like to be a sister living in Times Square and living at Saint Mary’s.
I like to think of our life here in terms of a triangle. First, Sister Deborah Francis and I have become city dwellers. We live in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in Saint Mary’s Mission House, which is part of the church complex. We are residents of Times Square with all the vicissitudes, exigencies and complexities this brings. We experience the noise, the people, the tourists, the neighbors and the traffic. We know first-hand the sights, sounds and lights that this neighborhood provides; and, though it may surprise you, we hear the songs of birds as well.
Our days are structured around a structure basically similar to that of our convent; but, not surprisingly, since ours is an urban house in an active religious community, each day is somewhat different. There are very few dull moments. There is definitely no monotony.
We attend the daily services of the parish. On weekdays and Saturdays that means Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer and Mass, and Evening Prayer; on Sundays there is Morning Prayer, one of the said Masses, the Solemn Mass and Evening Prayer or Solemn Evensong. That also means we have time for fellowship with members of the parish community on Sundays and feast days, which is something that we enjoy very much. We also see it as part of our work and ministry to help welcome our many visitors, to answer questions, and to do our part to attract new members.
The second point of the triangle is our work. We both do a great deal of altar and sacristy work for the parish – and keeping the high-altar linens in good shape is a bigger job than you might think. Saint Mary’s has one of the longest altars in Manhattan. (A few years ago, when one of the curates ordered some new fair linen for the high altar, the vendor insisted that he put the order in writing, refusing to believe that the altar was as long as Father said it was!). And all of that means laundry – lots of it – the washing and ironing of linen, the real stuff, all “natural fibers,” no polyester here! We also attend regular planning meetings with the clergy and other members of the staff. On Mondays we go out for coffee after Morning Prayer with the clergy. When Father Mead left the parish to begin his new ministry as rector of a parish in Westchester County, Father Gerth asked me to take charge of the sacristy. I’ve started working in there on a number of tasks – cleaning, organizing, ordering supplies, working with the acolytes to learn more about their tasks and routines, and keeping track of things that need repair or mending. The latter task is something that Sister Deborah Francis and I have been doing for a while now. We have oversight of the Saint Mary’s Guild, which normally meets on the first Saturday of every month in order to care for, and often to repair, the parish’s vestments and altar linens. We also help out around the parish office, working with the clergy, the business manager, and the parish volunteers, on a number of clerical tasks. These and other responsibilities take up the workday. I myself have a particular interest in working with the Enneagram, a tool for self-understanding for the purpose of spiritual and personal growth, and have been offering a regular workshop on the Enneagram for some priests of the diocese. Sister Deborah Francis works with icons and does spiritual direction. She meets regularly with a number of “directees” in an office in the Parish House. We have both offered Quiet Days in Advent and in Lent and that is something that we hope to do again in the future. Both of us do pastoral visiting to assist the parish clergy as needed.
The third point of the triangle is the ongoing task of integrating the aspects of our lives as religious living in community into the rest of our life at Saint Mary’s. Six o’clock in the morning is our usual rising time. We both take an hour for private prayer before a common intercession period at 7:30 AM. Breakfast happens before Morning Prayer in the church at 8:30 AM. Most days our work time is from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, when we attend Noonday Prayer and the Eucharist.
After lunch, the afternoon schedule varies from day to day. The constant elements are work, spiritual reading and the needs of the house. We also take one hour for free time. Evening Prayer is at 6:00 PM. Dinner and “recreation” follow. There is time for private devotions. We say Compline together at 8:30 PM. What has not been accomplished may be fitted in then. We each take one Sabbath day per week. Almost every Monday evening we go to Mendham to be with our community for meetings and the normal round of activities at the convent. We usually return to the Mission House on Tuesday nights. You might be surprised that silence is as important for us in our Times Square outpost as it is in Mendham. Silence is an essential part of our community life. We keep silence at the usual, designated times, from 8:30 p.m. until after breakfast. We eat lunch in silence too except on Sundays or on a “talking day.” Silence for us is a significant part of our routine and plays an important role in our lives. It is a means of grace and it is not a burden for us. This does not mean that we never break silence. There are always emergencies and charity is supposed to reign in our lives. I do hope that all this will give the readers of The Angelus some sense of what our life at Saint Mary’s is like. We both feel very privileged to be an active part of and to share in the life of this parish. Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Carol, Annie, Burt, Robert, Alex, Harm, Dorothy, Pascale, Cindy, Margaret, Eva, Allan, Harold, Marcia, Stephen, Madeleine, William, Gert, Mary, Allan, and Rick; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, Benjamin, Steven, Andrew, and Patrick; and for the repose of the souls of Eugene and Rosemary . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 20: 1878 Elizabeth Curtis; 1880 Frank Hernandez; 1950 Robert Gilman Dort.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Monday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . Monday, September 21, 7:00 PM, Meeting of the Board of Trustees . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, September 19; Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, September 26.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Raphael’s Guild of Ushers: Ushers, please contact Father Smith or Mr. Handy, if you are able to usher on the following dates: Tuesday, September 29, Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, Sung Mass 6:00 PM; Sunday afternoons in October, 4:30 PM-6:00 PM, Organ Recital and Evensong & Benediction (October 4, 11, 18, 25) . . . Marian Hymn Sing & Oktoberfest . . . Join a very jovial group of Saint Marians for the third annual Marian Hymn Sing and Oktoberfest in Saint Joseph’s Hall (and the organ loft!) on Saturday, October 3, at 6:00 PM, following the evening Mass. This is a great opportunity for newcomers to get to know the parish better and for old friends to spend an evening together. All the ingredients will be in place: beer, good food and joyful singing. Potluck contributions are welcomed, but not necessary. If you plan to bring something to eat, please contact Grace Bruni. If you have questions, please contact Grace, Marie Rosseels, Clark Mitchell, or MaryJane Boland . . . Thank you so much to all those who have worked so hard in recent days – on the Nativity of Mary, September 11 and Holy Cross Day – to support the work and mission of the parish. Thank you to the acolytes, our musicians, our ushers, the Flower Guild, to all those who brought, prepared, or served refreshments, to our parishioners who so patiently provided hospitality, and to the generous donor who made the Holy Cross Day reception possible . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 239; Holy Cross 83.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . Our cantor on Sunday is Dr. Mark Risinger, bass. The prelude at the Solemn Mass is the chorale prelude on Rhosymedre (“Lovely”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). At the ministration of Communion, Mark and I will sing the motet Oculus non vidit (“Eye hath not seen”) from Cantiones duarum vocum (“Songs for Two Voices”) by Orlande de Lassus (c. 1532-1594). Lassus (or Lasso or Delattre, as he was variously named) was born in Mons, now part of Belgium. Little is known about his early life apart from the fact that he was kidnapped three times because of the incredible beauty of his singing voice! He worked for several years in various parts of Italy before settling in Munich in 1556, where several composers, including both Gabrielis, visited to study with him. Cantiones duarum vocum, a set of Latin motets for two voices, was published in Antwerp in 1609. There will be an improvisation, a verset (a short passage of organ music, in the style of Lasso), as a centerpiece to the two sung sections. James Kennerley
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . Sunday, September 27, 7:00 PM, Gala Fundraising Concert: “The Love of Music & The Music of Love, Reflections from the Keyboard, Works by Liszt, Schubert and Chopin,” Bishop Michael Marshall, piano, and Gretchen Pusch, flute, at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, Fifth Avenue and 90th Street. The concert will benefit Heavenly Rest and The Awareness Foundation, which was founded by Bishop Marshall. The bishop is a friend of Saint Mary’s. He has celebrated and preached here at the parish on several occasions. For more information about the Foundation, about the gala benefit, or to purchase tickets for the concert, please visit the parish’s website at www.heavenlyrest.org/html/marshall.html.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN & ADULTS . . . Saint Mary’s Church School will resume on Sunday, October 4, 10:00 AM, in the Morning Room, just outside the Sacristy. Please contact Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins if you would like more information, or if you are planning to have a child attend Church School on Sunday mornings . . . Adult Education will resume on Sunday, October 4, 10:00 AM. Father Smith will teach a three-part church-history series, “The Episcopal Church in the Post-World War II Era, 1945–1985” (October 4, 11, and 18). No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. All classes will include a presentation as well as an opportunity to discuss issues and relevant texts . . . On October 7, 6:30 PM, the Wednesday Evening Bible Study will resume. The class will be led by Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., and will meet on seven successive Wednesdays, 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM, following Evening Prayer. The class will be studying the Book of Proverbs. All adult classes are held in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House, 133 West 46th Street, east of the doors of the church.
CONCERTS & RECITALS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, October 3, 2009, 3:00 PM, Ryan Jackson, organ; Saturday, October 24, 2009, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & Gretchen Windt, mezzo-soprano; Saturday, November 21, 3:00 PM, Cameron Carpenter, organ (for further information and ticketing, please visit: http://www.Cameron11-21.org); Saturday, December 12, 2009, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University Early Music Series: The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, director; Saturday, December 19, 2009, The New York Repertory Orchestra, Annual NYRO Benefit Concert, David Leibowitz, music director & James Kennerley, organ soloist; Saturday, January 23, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University Early Music Series: Le Poème Harmonique, Vincent Dumestre, conductor; Saturday, January 23, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University Early Music Series: “The Art of the Canon,” Vox Vocal Ensemble, George Steel, conductor; Saturday, February 13, 2010, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & Susie Park, violin soloist; Saturday, February 27, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University Early Music Series: “The Birth of the Renaissance: Guillaume Dufay,” Orlando Consort; Saturday, March 27, 2010, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & Erin Keefe, violin soloist; Saturday, May 22, 2010, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & Jennifer Grimaldi, soprano
OUTREACH MATTERS . . . Food Pantry: You are invited to bring non-perishable food items and new or clean, gently-used clothing items on Sundays. Those items are then delivered to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry on 46th Street. You can also make a cash donation, if you would like. Also, please let Father Smith know if you are available during the next week or so to make a delivery to Saint Clement’s . . . Hope in Richmond, South Africa: Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., and parishioner Michael McNett traveled to South Africa last winter to work with this organization, which sponsors a number of projects, focused on HIV/AIDS Education and Awareness, community building and organization, healthcare, sanitation and employment; one such project is Grassroots Soccer HIV Prevention, in which volunteers work with young people to prevent HIV infection. Their website is www.hopeinsouthafrica.com or speak to Sister Deborah Francis or Michael McNett for more information . . . New York Cares Annual Coat Drive: Before you know it the colder weather will be here. From the NY Cares website: “Did you know that 90% of homeless adults need a new, warm coat each winter because they have no place to keep one over the summer months? But it’s not just homeless people who need our help; thousands of New Yorkers are forced to make a choice between buying a winter coat and putting food on the table, or meeting other basic survival needs. Each December, New York Cares collects nearly 80,000 gently used winter coats and distributes them to thousands of men, women, and children who would otherwise go without.” If you have a new or gently-used coat, please contact Father Smith. We are beginning to gather coats now. Jay Smith
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Friday Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow, 1392 Abstinence
Saturday Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, 1626
Eve of the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer. Childcare is available from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM all Sundays of the year.
Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer. The Wednesday Mass is sung. The Thursday Mass includes anointing of the sick. Holy Days as announced.
Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.
Confessions are heard on Saturdays 11:30-11:50 AM & 4:00-4:50 PM.