A Photographical Account of Our Ministry During the COVID-19 Outbreak in New York City During the Spring of 2020

  • Catherine of Siena has been the patroness of our Dominican Priory here at 411 East 68th St. for over a century. Decades before a single medical institution in our neighborhood would be built, God knew we would need the daughter of St. Dominic’s intercession as “Patron of those who care for the sick.”
  • Hugh Vincent Dyer, O.P. is the chaplain to the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home a few blocks up from the priory. He moved into the nursing home on March 14th to accompany the sick and dying while supporting the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and the staff at Mary Manning Walsh Home in the peak of the pandemic.

  • After a few weeks of private prayer and not gathering in common to pray the divine office, the friars gathered again during Holy Week in the Church of St. Catherine of Siena. Socially distant yet prayerfully close.
  • John Maria Devaney, O.P. and David Adeletta, O.P. both chaplains in the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York chant the Divine Office.
  • Jonah Pollock, O.P. and Walter Wagner, O.P. make a profound bow during the Divine Office. Fr. Jonah is a chaplain as well and Fr. Walter is the prior of the community at St. Catherine of Siena Priory in addition to being the pastor of the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena.
  • The friars finish the Office of Compline, or night prayer, with a procession around the church to as for the intercession of the saints. Here the friars conduct the centuries old tradition of asking for St. Dominic’s help from heaven by singing the “O Lumen.”
  • At the beginning of the pandemic little was known about the transmission of the virus, so the friars set up individual changing and cleaning stations at the exits of the priory so that we would not potentially carry anything into the community.
  • PPE for the friars not only includes masks but rosaries and holy water.
  • The Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of the Rosary Monastery in Summit, NJ helped the frontline efforts of the sacramental care of the sick by mass producing single use pre-oiled cotton balls to be blessed each time and used by the priest in the Sacrament of the Sick. Dominic founded the nuns about a decade before the friars to have them pray for the efforts of their brother’s preaching.  In a pandemic, even more welcomed!
  • We supported care of the sick in hospitals outside our neighborhood when local priests were not available. This picture is from Elmhurst Hospital in Elmhurst, Queens.  Elmhurst made national headlines as one of the heaviest hit hospitals in New York City when the pandemic was exploding.  Our service was given in early May as the military medical crews were giving much needed relief to the local city medical staff.
  • Much of the work of the friars was to accompany the medical staff during the hardest weeks. The friars had the very unique opportunity to walk the halls of the hospitals and be a friendly, prayerful, and supportive presence to the exhausted, scared and stressed medical community.
  • Of course when visiting COVID-19 positive patients, especially as they were dying, we donned the PPE just like the rest of the medical community. We were there to treat the soul and they treated the body.  Here is Fr. Jonah at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
  • Fr. John going into his first COVID 19+ at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with PPE.
  • Fr. Jonah dons PPE at Mount Sinai Hospital.
  • Fr. John with some ICU nurses at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. preexisting friendships with staff members deepened as we served at the frontlines together.
  • Daily and weekend masses were continually offered in the respective institutions we serve, obviously without a live congregation. But they were played over closed circuit TV in patients rooms. The untold graces the mass gives us in life was no doubt at work amongst the stress and sufferings.
  • Far from the frontlines, people of faith and good will sent their prayers and support to the staff and the sick. This solidarity was not forgotten by those in the trenches! 
  • One of the most difficult consequences of the pandemic was that people were not able to mourn the loss of loved ones and lay them to rest according to the Rites of the Church. We helped the best we could by conducting graveside committal services and hosting online memorials.  This was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, Long Island.  We were told that at its peak, seventy-nine burials took place one day in early April.  They usually host three or four per day.
  • The Dominican friars have been in New York City officially since June 22, 1867. We have been serving the sick in our hospital apostolate for almost a century.  You bet we are #NewYorkTough!  As seen here at Rockerfeller Center’s tribute.
  • Children’s prayers and support have mighty power before the thrown of God and they warmed the heart and strengthened the soul as seen here at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
  • For almost three months straight, the 7:00PM cheer in the neighborhood and across the boroughs gave a resounding push to get through another day battling the virus for the frontline.
  • The medical community from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center came out to join the cheer at the 7:00PM shift change.
  • At mass we say, “Save us, Savior of the world for by thy cross and resurrection you have set us free.” In the new covenant with humanity, Jesus has taken all suffering and death upon himself at Calvary.  In the suffering and death we found ourselves in at the onslaught of the pandemic, our strength and yours was and is from Jesus Christ.  Our sufferings are united with his for the good of our souls and the fate of mankind from age to age.  Our chapel to the Holy Rood here at St. Catherine’s is a nightly stop on our friar’s procession through out the church at Compline or night prayer.  We remember the sick and the suffering written in our intention book and we pause to thank God for another day of grace, strength and mercy as we all climb Calvary, pandemic or not.