.- Several priests of the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport responded quickly to the mass murder of adults and schoolchildren at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, rushing to the scene to comfort victims and their relatives.
Brian Wallace, the diocese’s director of communications, said that priests from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, the only Catholic parish in Newtown, are actively responding.
“The parish is huge and extremely active and it’s just up the street,” Wallace told CNA Dec. 14.
“Within minutes (of the shooting) the pastor, Msgr. Bob Weiss, was at the scene of the tragedy working with families,” he said.
“He quickly alerted other priests from the parish who joined him. As this unfolded, and the significance of it became apparent, we also alerted all our clergy in the upper Danbury area.”
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on the morning of Dec. 14 left at least 27 people dead, including 18 children.
A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that the attacker was a 20-year-old man with ties to the school. He apparently had two guns.
Wallace said the murders have had a deep impact. “We’re disoriented by it,” he said. “It is so profoundly disturbing.”
“It’s a very difficult time. I think it’s going to get worse. The indications are that there may be a number of children who were killed.”
CBS News reports that the gunman was the father of one of the students and is from New Jersey. A possible second shooter is in custody.
Wallace also noted that many Catholic clergy have responded, including those in local medical facilities.
“Our chaplains in the hospitals are meeting with people. Our priests are on the ground doing everything they can to deal with grieving families and with people who have good news but are totally traumatized by what has occurred.”
Newtown is a small town of only 27,000 people.
“We don’t know yet who the victims are,” Wallace said. “We assume that a number of victims may be parishioners or their relatives.”
Monsignor Jerald A. Doyle, administrator of the Bridgeport diocese, promised the prayers of Catholics in the diocese and shared their "collective sense of grief, shock, and loss.”
“We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this unthinkable tragedy, and our hearts go out to the entire Newtown community,” he said Dec. 14.
“Catholics throughout the Diocese are urged to join us in prayer for the victims and their families.”
Catholic Charities of Fairfield County has a trauma team with experience in counseling those in crisis. The team will be available to help victims in the local parish and Catholic school. The agency is open to the wider community but at present is focused on those most likely to be part of Catholic organizations.
“Our focus is dealing with any families that are members of the parish who will need counseling immediately,” Wallace said.
“The diocese at this point is on the ground doing what it can,” he added. “People will rally around.”
St. Rose of Lima will have a special Mass tonight at 7 p.m. for the victims of the shooting.
Updated Dec. 14, 2012 at 1:02 MST. Adds commentary from Msgr. Doyle, administrator of the Bridgeport diocese.