New York Priest Lifts Spirits Of Nursing Home Shut-Ins With A Special Dose Of Culture By William Newton for The Federalist
Rev. Hugh Vincent Dyer is busy helping New York City nursing home residents, giving them not only spiritual comfort, but a collection of films and poems that bring back good memories and keep their spirits high.
One person in the middle of the present pandemic you won’t hear whining about quarantine fatigue or supermarket lines is the Rev. Hugh Vincent Dyer, because he’s too busy trying to help the elderly, at-risk New Yorkers he serves by bringing them spiritual comfort, along with a bit of culture.
Father Dyer is a Catholic priest and member of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominicans. You may have read about him recently in The New York Times, discussing his decision in the wake of coronavirus to move out of the friary he shared on the Upper East Side with other members of his order. Dyer took the unusual step of taking up residence at the nursing home in the area where he has served as chaplain since December 2019.
There are about 360 elderly residents at the nursing home, not all of them Catholic. In addition to broadcasting Mass, the rosary, and meditations from the facility’s chapel via CCTV, Dyer makes himself available to anyone who wants his counsel or company. As in many parts of the country, strict social distancing measures have been in place for many weeks now, given the high rate of susceptibility among the elderly.
This means the chapel is mostly empty of visitors these days, apart from a few of the nuns who work at the home. However, with the ability to reach all the isolated residents at once through CCTV, Dyer has become more creative in connecting with his flock.
Poetry Brings Back Memories for Residents
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Dyer uses the internal television system to broadcast what he calls a “Cultural Miscellany,” in which he looks at a variety of topics and tries to link them with poetry and the arts. He recently gave a talk on trees, for example, and their relationship to both culture and scripture, using “A Ballad of Trees and the Master” by Sidney Lanier (1842-1881) as a jumping-off point. On another occasion, his reading of “The Builders” by Sara Henderson Hay (1906-1987), a retelling of “The Three Little Pigs,” led to a reflection on the material aspects of practicing the virtues.