Probably the most frequent question for me these days is: “How is the Newtown community doing?” My answer is simple: We are on a journey to healing, but we are all on different paths. Some are still frozen in time from the tragic events of that day last year; some have begun to take baby steps in dealing with their grief or anger; and some have made great strides by doing positive actions for others and honoring the victims.
The community is stressed and grieved. There are those children who still jump at the sound of a door being slammed; there are many who have trouble sleeping and other health issues; there are some who cannot help but cry. But through it all, the one constant has been faith.
I still recall that, even after hours at Sandy Hook Elementary School, no one ever asked why God allowed this to happen. It was clear from the beginning that this was an act of evil and that darkness had covered us. But it was also clear that the light of faith and the strength of a community rooted in faith would not allow the darkness to continue. Good conquered evil; light overcame darkness. And so it is to this day.
We know the horrible story of Dec. 14, 2012, and we know that people around the world came together to pray for and bring hope to a broken community. I remember receiving an email message from a parish in Ireland that simply read: “While you are sleeping, we are praying. Be at peace. You are in the hands of God.”
We all quickly realized that if there was to be peace, it could only come from God. If unsettled hearts and disrupted lives were to be healed, it had to come from the hand of God. If we were to have any hope for tomorrow, it would be only if our God gave us the grace to get through one day and look forward to the next.
Indeed, faith has been an integral part of this community since the moment we were faced with this tragedy, and many people have renewed their faith because of it. Our religious services are well attended, and families are coming together in prayer. There is a sense of gratitude among us for each other’s presence.
Our community’s religious leaders have met often to pray and to lead others in prayer. We have made ourselves available for any request: to bless a playground in honor of one of the victims, to host events of remembrance, to pray over a school being demolished that once held the joy of happier days, and simply to let the families know that we are here for them.
We are experiencing all the stages of grief: the denial, the bargaining, the anger. As people of faith, we are also experiencing the hope that one day there will be peace, that violence will disappear and that the Beatitudes will be the authentic guide for our lives. We live in the hope that after great suffering comes great consolation. We pray that every human being will be respected and revered, and that we will embrace life as the precious gift that God created it to be. We live as people of faith in a hope that is unbounded. We know that healing will be ours because we trust in the source of healing, forgiveness and peace: our God, ever present to us, even in our darkest moments.
MSGR. ROBERT WEISS is the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., and a member of St. Virgilius Council 185. He is also the first recipient of the Order’s Caritas Award, which was presented at the 131st Supreme Convention in August.