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After the shooting, eight Catholic funerals in six days

The St Rose of Lima church in Newtown, Connecticut, had the tragic task of laying eight small children to rest in one week.

  • John Burger
  • United States
  • December 27, 2012
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During the frenzied response to the devastating Newtown, Conn., school shooting last week, a policeman picked up one of the first-graders who had been shot. She was still alive, but not for long. The six-year-old lived long enough for the officer to say to her, “I love you.” And then the life slipped from her small body.

Deacon Don Naiman elicited gasps and cries from mourners as he related that story during the funeral Dec. 21 of Olivia Rose Engel.

“That officer was the voice of Jesus Christ” to the girl, Deacon Naiman said during his homily at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown. “And I am convinced that he gently passed Olivia to the hands of the Blessed Mother.”

He urged members of a large congregation that filled the church to likewise “be the hand of Christ…to these beautiful parents” and to others in the world.

It’s been an emotion-filled week in this bucolic New England town, and Olivia’s funeral was one of eight at the church — all for children who had not even made their first Communion. The final one was to take place Saturday, just days before Christmas.

Earlier in the day, at 9:30, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy presided over a moment of silence at town hall to mark one week since 20-year-old Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School. The bell at an Episcopal church slowly tolled 26 times as heavy rain and strong winds ushered in the first day of winter.

An hour later, hundreds of mourners filled St. Rose’s to reflect on the life of 6-year-old Grace Audrey McDonnell and to hear the pastor call for change.

“We have become a culture of death, where there is less and less respect for life and the dignity that every human person enjoys [because he is] created by God,” said Msgr. Robert Weiss. He acknowledged that people have proposed many ideas to “change things” in response to the tragedy, including gun control and banning violent video games. But he said that is not enough.

“Change happens within each one of us,” Msgr. Weiss told the congregation. “We need to change this attitude that is driving us away from everything that is right and good, everything God intended us to be in this world.”

He said that as a society, “We’ve become too busy for family, too busy for friends, even too busy for God.” He expressed hope that the tragedy would remind everyone about “what’s really important in life.”

As if recalling Gaudete Sunday from the week before, Msgr. Weiss was vested in a rose chasuble, while other priests concelebrating Mass wore the purple vestments of Advent. Twenty-six votive candles were lined up along the front edge of the altar, each with the name of a different child who perished in the killing spree. An urn containing the cremains of little Grace sat on a pedestal in front of the altar.

Introducing the Lord’s Prayer right before Communion, the pastor told Mass-goers that he liked to believe that it was a prayer that was going through the minds of some of the children in Sandy Hook School as the tragic incident was unfolding, “asking the Lord to protect them.”

Full Story:Six Days, Eight Funerals, Countless Tears 

Source: Catholic World Report

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