Until 14 December most of us would never have heard of a place called Newtown, Connecticut. Tragically, joining our own Port Arthur, it has entered the world’s listing of places burdened by the memory of acts of unspeakable evil.
No other description can be found for the murders of 27 little schoolchildren and their teachers. Again we are confronted with a world that is shrouded in darkness and death, and acts of depravity that go beyond simple badness to the most sinister madness.
For me and many others this sad event ten days before Christmas will remain present, to be taken up into the bright hope of this season.
Ten of the families who lost children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were members of the local St Rose of Lima Catholic parish. The parish priest, Monsignor Bob, and his assistant Father Luke were on the scene in minutes.
Upon them fell without warning the bereavement and suffering of so many of their people as their town became the focus of world notoriety. The priests have been conducting the funerals in St Rose’s church each day this week.
Unbelievably, amid the intense media presence and 24/7 ministry to heartbroken families the Newtown parish has been subjected to telephone threats and hoaxes and further reminders of evil’s ongoing presence in the aftermath of the tragedy.And Father Luke has been less than two years ordained, the same as our five young priests in the Lismore diocese, in the first stage of pastoral ministry.
It would be terrible if that was all. Father Luke hopes that soon the media coverage will include the wonderful awakening of faith and hope that sustains the whole community. Crowds keep their church open in silent prayer day and night, and the bereaved families are embraced by an incredible outpouring of love in every practical way.
Celebrating Christmas this year, that’s something to think about. Evil can kill in thousands, but love hugs one at a time.
Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett
Bishop of Lismore