Monsignor finds strength from his parishioners
Published 5:46 pm, Saturday, December 22, 2012
Eight of the 20 children slain there Dec. 14 came from families that belong to the church.
"I baptized a few of them," Monsignor Robert Weiss said of the children who perished at Sandy Hook. On Saturday, the 66-year-old pastor presided over the last of the memorial services at St. Rose of Lima.
"Then I have to get the parish back to Christmas," he said as he prepared.
Given all the town has been through, it's understandable that people might not be filled with the Christmas spirit. Weiss is not one of them."Someone said we ought to take the Christmas lights down," he said. "I felt that's the last thing we want (to) do."
Quick to offer comfort
Weiss, who was appointed pastor of St. Rose of Lima in 1999, was one of the first clergy members who rushed to the scene of the Sandy Hook shootings. He has been counseling grieving parishioners ever since.
He said the people who have given him the most strength have been the people that might seem most in need of his help -- the parents of the slain children.
"In almost every service, they've delivered the eulogy," Weiss said. And in their words, they've emphasized the life and laughter of their children. "When they conclude, people stand and applaud," Weiss said.
From that, Weiss said, he gains a greater sense of love and hope within the community, and the world.
"Good is triumphant," he said.
Weiss said the church has been open every day, 24 hours a day, for mourning, prayer and contemplation. People come at all hours seeking solace.
"We have gone through thousands of candles," he said.
People pitching in
Volunteers have kept the church functioning, even as memorial services piled up on top of each other. Once, the volunteers had just a half-hour between services.
"It has run like clockwork," Weiss said.
Early in the crisis, Weiss said, people began stopping by the church's statue of the Virgin Mary to leave flowers, candles and messages.
Walking by it now, the monsignor finds himself praying to Mary for his own consolation.
Rabbi Shaul Prevar, of Congregation Adath Israel -- who, like Weiss, was at the Sandy Hook firehouse when parents were told their children had died -- said the town's clergy are helping each other "as much as we can."
But Prevar said the clergy have to be constantly ready to help others. "Eventually, you find someone you need to talk to," Prevar said.
That means helping people work through their sorrows.
"We're all foot soldiers here," Prevar said.
Weiss said he welcomes the Christmas season and its message. But he is also telling parishioners that it will take months of work to heal from the Sandy Hook shootings.At the moment, the grieving families are the focus of attention from family and friends who want to help. But Weiss said that pressure will eventually lift.
"I'm telling members of the parish, `That's when you're going to be needed with your cakes and your soup,' " he said.