Msgr. Robert Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., offered his reflection on the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting on the eve of its 10th anniversary.
Monsignor Weiss told The Record, a Central Kentucky Catholic online news website, that the experience was particularly “difficult” for him and many others in the community.
“I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since then. It’s been a difficult experience for me and for others, too,” The Record quoted Weiss telling Catholic News Service via telephone.
‘A Difficult Experience’
Aside from admitting that the experience was difficult for him and many in his parish and the Newtown community, Weiss also volunteered other details of the shooting’s effects.
The priest admitted suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but explained that he had sought and received treatment.
Weiss revealed their parish got a credible threat two days following the shooting. Fortunately, a SWAT team acted quickly on the threat and evacuated the church for safety measures.
In the years after the incident, Weiss said Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist, staged a harassment campaign against him and his parishioners. Jones and his group allegedly claimed the shooting was a hoax and said it was part of the government’s bid to rally support behind tighter rules on gun ownership in the country.
Aside from the harassment, Weiss said Jones called him ‘a liar, an unfaithful priest lacking credibility.’
One of Jones’ fellow conspiracy theorists, Wolfgang Halbig, also reportedly barged into Sandy Hook with four photographers ‘using false pretenses.’ Police successfully removed the intruders from the school premises.
The article bared that Jones was ordered to shell out millions of dollars as payment to victims’ families who suffered from the conspiracy theories he concocted in the aftermath of the deadly shooting.
Monsignor Weiss’ Connection to Sandy Hook Victims
According to the report by The Record, Newtown became thrust into the national and international spotlight when a young suspect opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. The young man reportedly killed 26 individuals, 20 of whom were pupils in first grade.
The article also bared the other six fatalities belonged to the school’s adult staff. Some victims attended Monsignor Weiss’ St. Rose of Lima parish, which he started pastoring in 1999.
Accordingly, Weiss had to officiate the funerals of eight of the children who died in the shooting. He also presided over burials and wakes for the victims.
Weiss recalled how life had been for him since the massacre happened.
“Gratitude sustains me. I pray a lot and try to keep myself in the Lord’s hands,” he said.
How Healing Occurred for the Community
Monsignor Weiss revealed how the Newtown community began healing in the years following the incident.
“As a small community, we did not have the resources, but people here did not forget the goodness that was shown to us,” Weiss explained.
Weiss said they got help from Yale University and Madison Square Garden. Yale reportedly offered a year-long free counseling for victims’ families. At the same time, Madison Square Garden funded the renovation of the parish gymnasium.
Weiss also disclosed the Newtown community helped support scholarships and foundations on the leadership of the victims’ families. He said such a community effort worked wonders for them.
“It facilitated their healing and had an impact on the community. We saw that good could come from bad and it bonded us together,” Weiss told reporters.