At Newtown parish, “faith in action”

A beautiful testimony to the power of prayer, and the power of presence, from the National Catholic Register: 

Nothing seemed different about the well-traveled two-lane route leading into this Connecticut community on Saturday. Newtown looked for all purposes like the typical scenic, small New England town — the way it always did.

The turn at the town’s landmark flagpole quickly conducted local traffic past St. Rose of Lima Church to Interstate 8 a couple hundred yards further on, then into the village of Sandy Hook.

Nothing on the main road looked unusual, except for the bi,g hand-lettered sign in front of a business on the way into town that said, “Just Say a Prayer.”

That is exactly what people were doing as they silently entered St. Rose all day. They went there to pray and remember the victims and their families of the horrible-beyond-words tragedy that took place a short distance down the road on Friday in Sandy Hook School, where 20 of the elementary school’s youngest children and six adults were massacred by a lone gunman.

Many people found consolation through coming to St. Rose, the only Catholic church in town and one that has a very large congregation, many of them young families. Several of the victims were members of the parish.

Saturday morning and afternoon people continued to pour in; many came to offer prayers. Twenty-six votive candles lined the top of the altar, one for each child and adult who died in the school. Directly behind them the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the tabernacle. To the side, a picture of the Sacred Heart also reminded people of the Lord’s presence.

Nearly every single person remained kneeling in prayer…

…Msgr. Robert Weiss, the parish’s longtime pastor, had his full attention and presence with grieving families in the rectory. The day before, when he went to the school, he spoke briefly with two television stations.

Many victims were from his parish, he said. One child had been excited to be playing an angel in St. Rose’s upcoming Christmas pageant, another to be making first holy Communion this year. Many of the slain children were preparing for their first Communion.

“If we work together, good things can happen,” Msgr. Weiss concluded in the midst of the tragic situation.

In the midst of the shattered community’s anguish, good things were evident Saturday. People steadily flooded into the church. Many parishioners, their hearts and minds obviously sorrowing, preferred not to talk or share thoughts with anyone.

A few did pause for a moment to share how they came to be a part of support and solidarity.

Parishioner Eileen Byrnes described how during the memorial Mass on Friday night “every seat was taken, and people were three-deep in the aisles. Hundreds more were outside singing Silent Night.”

“The Catholic community was coming together,” she said. “It was faith in action.”


I’ve looked in vain for Msgr. Weiss’s beautiful remarks during Sunday night’s interfaith prayer vigil.  Has anybody seen a text?

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