Newtown youth minister says Catholic outpouring of help 'inspiring'
Catholic News Service
Young people play music outside the funeral Mass for Rachel Marie D'Avino at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Conn., Dec. 21. D'Avino was among the 20 schoolchildren shot dead Dec. 14 after a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Catholic News Service
RYE, N.Y. — An outpouring of help for Newtown "from the entire Catholic community is quite inspiring," said a youth minister at St. Rose of Lima Church in the Connecticut town where a horrific school shooting took place Dec. 14.
"Certainly we've been lifted up in prayer, but the generosity is amazing," Rodd Blessey said in a Dec. 20 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.
People from the parish, the state, Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and beyond are responding to the aftermath of the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he said.
"We've had a tremendous amount of calls from people all over the world, an email from the pope and letters and gifts sent though the parish for the affected families and children in general," he said. Rosaries and stuffed animals are among the items received at the parish.
Blessey said volunteers from "all over" and the Knights of Columbus from throughout the state are on the scene to do whatever is necessary. "They've sorted mail and handed out prayer cards. The Knights have parked cars, opened doors, helped the police and cleared and cleaned the church between the back-to-back funerals this week."
"The Knights are not just showing up, they're getting to work. They're feeding the police and providing tents and a warm place for them to stand; they're tending the memorials and going to the post office to collect packages," Blessey said.
Knights and other volunteers are using their vacation time to help in Newtown, he said.
St. Rose pastor Msgr. Robert Weiss is supported by a plethora of priests, from near and far, including diocesan priests and members of the Legionaries of Christ from nearby Cheshire, Conn., Blessey said.
Msgr. Weiss is celebrating all of the funeral liturgies for students who died at the school. At least eight were members of the parish. He was the first clergyman at the scene of the shooting.
Blessey said he was moved by the response to a youth event he organized to help the young parishioners start to grieve. He asked five prominent Catholic youth ministers to send video messages to the event. All responded affirmatively, and one, Sean Forrest, rearranged his schedule to attend the program. Forrest is a Connecticut youth minister, songwriter and performer who has spoken at hundreds of retreats and conferences.
For an overnight adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Blessey asked for rosaries to distribute to participants. The request and a follow-up yielded more than 1,000 rosaries. Blessey was heartened by the large number of Sisters of Life and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal who came to be with youths from the parish youth.