School shootings are undeniably distressing, with children often being the unfortunate targets of these unprecedented and unprovoked attacks. The fact that these incidents occur in places meant to be safe havens for kids only compounds the difficulty for affected families. Regrettably, the frequency of school shootings has been on the rise, and despite dedicated efforts by authorities, the problem persists.
A similar event in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, stands as a stark reminder of the devastating impact of such incidents. In the documentary ‘Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane,’ Father Robert Weiss provides valuable insights into the emotions that swept through the community during that challenging time and shed light on how they coped with the aftermath of the tragedy.
Father Robert Weiss Helped His Community Greatly
In his late teens, Monsignor Robert Weiss experienced something while walking across his school campus—a voice urging him to join the priesthood. Embracing this divine calling, he entered St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, New York, in 1968 and was ordained on May 18, 1973. Throughout his career, Monsignor Weiss demonstrated a deep commitment to serving communities and nurturing spiritual growth. Before arriving at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown in 1999, he dedicated his ministry to four parishes, fostering a strong connection with the congregants.
Notably, Monsignor Weiss maintained a close and compassionate relationship with children and served as a chaplain at Trinity High School in Stamford and as a pastor in schools affiliated with his previous parishes. When the shooting unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claiming the lives of 26 individuals, including 20 children, Monsignor Robert Weiss emerged as the first spiritual responder for the grieving community. Amidst the profound sorrow and devastation, he provided solace and comfort, guiding people through the difficult process of grief and helping them comprehend the natural but heart-wrenching aspect of loss.
Despite grappling with his pain and sorrow, Monsignor Weiss stood as a pillar of strength for his community, offering unwavering support and compassion. His role as a spiritual leader became instrumental in fostering resilience and unity among the shattered hearts of Newtown. In the aftermath of the shooting, Monsignor Robert Weiss found a profound connection with Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan, who had endured a similar incident in Dunblane 16 years prior. The two clergymen exchanged heartfelt letters, navigating the complex landscape of their emotions and seeking ways to cope with the profound grief they shared.
Monsignor Weiss, grappling with his emotional turmoil and diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recognized the importance of seeking professional help to facilitate his recovery and provide effective support to others. Understanding the expectations placed upon him as a community leader, he knew that demonstrating strength and resilience was crucial.
Where is Father Robert Weiss Today?
Monsignor Robert Weiss remained dedicated to the St. Rose of Lima community for several years. In 2019, displaying adaptability to the evolving times, he initiated an online forum called Weiss Wednesdays to connect with a broader Catholic audience, recognizing the importance of staying connected in a digital age. Approaching his 75th year in 2021, according to diocesan rules, Monsignor Weiss was slated to retire, but his commitment to the Newtown community, especially during the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook killings, compelled him to seek an extension.
Having presided over the funerals of eight children lost in the tragedy, he submitted his resignation while simultaneously appealing to continue his service at the church for an additional two years. In the spring of 2023, Monsignor Weiss celebrated his remarkable 50th anniversary of priesthood, a testament to his enduring commitment and service. He also played a prominent role in leading the Labor Day parade in September 2023, and while set to retire in December 2023, his legacy of compassion and resilience remains indelibly marked on the community he served for so many years.