Knights of Columbus honor former Shelton pastor for Newtown role

The former pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Shelton has been recognized by the international Knights of Columbus for his role in comforting the Newtown community after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy last December.

The Knights, a fraternal Catholic charity organization, presented one of its inaugural Caritas Awards to Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Newtown. Weiss had served at Shelton’s St. Joseph in the 1990s.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson conferred the award on Weiss at the Knights international conference in Texas on Aug. 6. The other Caritas Award presented was given to St. Virgilius Knights of Columbus Council 185, located at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown. Grand Knight Timothy Haas represented the Newtown Knights council at the international conference.

Anderson also announced the Knights will provide $100,000 to the Newtown 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.

‘With mercy and love’

"Those we honor, like the Good Samaritan, treated their injured and suffering neighbors, classmates and friends with mercy and love," Anderson said during a conference dinner attended by about 2,000 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," Anderson said. "In the midst of tragedy, as so often happens, heroes rise to the occasion; Monsignor Weiss was heroic.”

In brief remarks, 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,” Weiss said.

Many bishops and cardinals attended

Anderson said Monsignor 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."

Among those at the 131st Knights international convention in San Antonio were nearly 90 bishops and cardinals from around the world, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore (formerly of the Bridgeport Diocese).

Served elsewhere in Fairfield County

Weiss, 61, grew up in Florida and completed his seminary studies at St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, N.Y. He was ordained in 1973 at St. Christopher Church in North Chili, N.Y.

Coming to the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1976, he served as parochial vicar at St. Andrew parish in Bridgeport, St. Leo parish in Stamford and St. Jude Parish in Monroe before becoming pastor of St. Joseph parish in Shelton in 1990.

Weiss has been spiritual director for Stamford Catholic High School (now Trinity Catholic), a member of the college of Consultors, and territorial vicar of Vicariate V. He was appointed pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown in 1999.

Recognizing charity and service

The new Caritas Award was created earlier this year to recognize extraordinary works of charity and service. The world headquarters of the Knights of Columbus is in New Haven.

In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 school shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead, the local Knights council organized a spiritual effort that led to 3.25 million prayers being offered for the victims, survivors, first responders and overall Newtown community.

Local 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 dealth with other logistical challenges.

Toy drive in young victim’s memory

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

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

About the Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in New Haven. The organization now has 1.8 million members worldwide.

In the past year, the Knights of Columbus has donated more than $167.5 million and over 70 million hours of service to charitable causes.