Newtown Pastor Receives Inaugural Caritas Award from Knights of Columbus

Aug 07, 2013, 17:45 ET from Knights of Columbus

Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Lori, nearly 100 bishops on hand as Msgr. Weiss and Newtown Council 185 are honored

SAN ANTONIO, Aug. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Knights of Columbus has created a new award to recognize extraordinary works of charity and service, conferring it on the pastor and Knights of Columbus council who worked tirelessly to help the community of Newtown in the aftermath of December's shooting.


Supreme Knight Carl Anderson conferred the awards Tuesday night, Aug. 6, with the first going to Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, and the second conferred to St. Virgilius Knights of Columbus Council 185. The council, located at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, was represented by Grand Knight Timothy Haas.

The awards were announced at the Knights' 131st international convention in San Antonio, which was attended by nearly 100 members of the Catholic hierarchy from around the world, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore; Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States; and Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM, Cap., who delivered the evening's keynote address.

Newtown was the scene of last December's elementary school shooting that gripped the nation and the world as the small community mourned the loss of the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, most of whom were young children.

Supreme Knight Anderson also announced last evening that the organization will provide $100,000 to the parish to assist in ongoing parish programs to help those still suffering from the tragic events of December. The funds will be presented in a ceremony in Newtown later this year.

"Those we honor, like the Good Samaritan, treated their injured and suffering neighbors, classmates and friends with mercy and love," said Anderson before a dinner audience of some 2,000 that included Knights from an assortment of countries and their guests.

"They did so at a time when so many around them faced suffering the likes of which we can hardly imagine," said Anderson. "In the midst of tragedy, as so often happens, heroes rise to the occasion; Msgr. Weiss was heroic."

Anderson said Msgr. Weiss is among those who, in the recent words of Pope Francis, can "step into the night without being overcome by the darkness and losing their bearings ... able to sympathize with the brokenness of others without losing their own strength and identity."

In the heartbreaking work that began on Dec. 14, the day of the shootings, Anderson said Msgr. Weiss was supported by his brother Knights of Newtown's St. Virgilius Council.

The first priority was spiritual as the council established a program that asked people to pray a minimum of three Hail Marys for the victims and their families; the first responders and teachers; and the Newtown community. With the help of the Knights' websites, the efforts spread and more than 105,000 people signed up, offering a total of more than 3.25 million prayers. 

The Knights also served as ushers at eight funerals, most of which were for children, and helped in the parish when it was overwhelmed with messages of condolence and other logistical challenges.

Caroline Previdi, one of the children killed, had been saving money to help in the council's annual Christmas toy drive for children in need. In her honor, council members raised more than $70,000 for toys in her memory.

"There was no playbook, no planning for such a situation," said Anderson. "Despite the enormity of what lay before them, the warm hearts of Msgr. Weiss and his brother Knights powerfully demonstrated to all the spirit of the Good Samaritan."

In brief remarks, Msgr. Weiss said that he did what any priest would do in the midst of great human suffering. "We cried when it was time to cry, hugged when it was time to hug, and loved when it was time to love."

The new award was established earlier this year by a vote of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors and will be conferred on future recipients when merited. The Caritas Award becomes the second major award given by the organization. Previously, the Knights of Columbus has, on occasion, given its Gaudium et Spes Award, which has been conferred in recent years on Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, and Jean Vanier, the internationally renowned founder of l'Arche, a network of faith-based communities that care for people with developmental disabilities.

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in New Haven, Conn. With charity as its central commitment, the organization has grown to 1.8 million members worldwide. During the past year, Knights donated more than $167.5 million and more than 70 million hours of service to charitable causes.

SOURCE Knights of Columbus