Quiet remembrance of Sandy Hook tragedy

Child angel on tombstone (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

Child angel on tombstone (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

There will not be exhaustive news coverage Dec. 14 on the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

That’s because Newtown’s First Selectman Pat Llodra specifically asked the media to stay away and give the townspeople  “the time to be alone and quiet, with time for personal and communal reflection.”

According to The Washington Post, which won’t be in Newtown this weekend, the other media outlets that won’t be there include: CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, the New York Times, USA Today. The Associated Press will have reporters in the town marking the anniversary of the deaths of 20 children and six educators at the school. The gunman, Adam Lanza, also shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Sandy Hook home the morning of Dec. 14 and later committed suicide at the school.

Margaret Low Smith, senior vice president for news at National Public Radio, told the Post she didn’t remember a similar media blackout for the first anniversaries of other tragedies that gained national attention, but added:  “We’re all human beings, and we get it.”

Another news consideration, beyond respect for the community, is that there will be no public events in Newtown to mark the anniversary. Local churches and faith communities are planning special services Dec. 14 and plan to ring bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. to honor each victim.

Woman touches sign at Newton, Conn., memorial (CNS photo from Reuters)

Woman touches sign at Newton, Conn., memorial (CNS photo from Reuters)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., will celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Mass Dec. 14 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, the site of eight funerals from the Sandy Hook shooting. After Mass, an outdoor sanctuary will be dedicated and that evening there will be a candlelight prayer service and dedication of the Angel of Hope statue recently installed in front of the parish school.

Msgr. Robert “Bob” Weiss, pastor of St. Rose, wrote in Dec. 7-8 parish bulletin under the “Message from Msgr. Bob” column that he knew there would be “heavy hearts” at this anniversary.

Here are his words to the parish community:

We have found great strength through the witness of the most impacted families who even in their unspeakable grief help hold each one of us up by their courage and the positive actions they are taking to honor their loved ones. It is love and love alone that keeps them and us moving forward. It is also a time of great gratitude for the incredible amount of support we have received from throughout the world.

I am certain that there is not one family in our community who has not had a call, conversation, letter of concern or the assurance of prayers from outside the community. In the darkness we have been gifted by the light of many who understand our brokenness and want only to let us know that we are not alone and that healing will be ours in time. Gratitude is an important human aspect of human life, especially in times like these. I am personally grateful for all the support that I have been given from people throughout the world who realize that it is only in faith that we can move forward and find the strength and hope that we need. I am especially grateful for the faith of this parish community.

Woman at memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16, 2012. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Woman at memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16, 2012. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, wrote in his blog that it is hard to believe a year has passed since the school shootings. He also lamented that during the year political efforts at stemming access to assault weapons have failed  “and the plague of gun violence continues to claim innocent lives.”

The priest echoed his call of a year ago, when he joined faith leaders from across the country calling on Congress to pass sensible legislation aimed at reducing the likelihood of a similar mass shooting.

Father Snyder pointed out that not long after Christmas the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents, children murdered by King Herod’s armies after Christ’s birth. He said the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School were also innocents, too young to comprehend the evil that was befalling them.

“We seek to remember their promise and honor their lives by working to ensure that never again must we witness the heartbreaking scene of parents forced to bury their children,” he added.

Please join me in prayer for the children and teachers lost one year ago, and for their families. May perpetual light shine on the innocents of Newtown, and may God grant us success in our efforts to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again.

The website created by families of victims of Sandy Hook shooting does not address gun violence but simply acknowledges that many people want to know what to do on the anniversary of this tragedy.

It suggests that people “consider performing an act of kindness or volunteering with a charitable organization in your local community.  In this way, we hope that some small measure of good may be returned to the world.”

That advice has all the more poignancy after the Dec. 13 school shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., where one student was shot and critically wounded by a heavily armed male student  said to be looking to confront a faculty member before shooting and killing himself.  The school is about eight miles east of Columbine High School in Littleton, where two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999.

The best Christmas movies

A scene from the movie "Joyeux Noel." (CNS photo/Sony Picture Classics)

A scene from the movie “Joyeux Noel.” (CNS photo/Sony Picture Classics)

John Mulderig, the assistant director for media reviews at CNS, was asked to come up with a top-10 list of Christmas movies. Try as he might, John couldn’t whittle it down to just 10. Instead, he delivered a crop of 19 Christmas-themed films that viewers of all ages can enjoy.

Take a look at the list; films are listed alphabetically. How many have you seen?

”The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945)
“The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)
“A Christmas Carol” (1951)
“A Christmas Carol” (2009)
“A Christmas Story” (1983)
“Christmas With the Kranks” (2004)
“Come to the Stable” (1949)
“The Fourth Wise Man” (1985)
“Fred Claus” (2007)
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
“Joyeux Noel” (2006)
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
“The Nativity Story” (2006)
“The Polar Express” (2004)
“Prancer” (1989)
“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940)
“Three Godfathers” (1948)
“White Christmas” (1954)

Scene from the animated movie "The Polar Express." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Scene from the animated movie “The Polar Express.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

When all is said and done, you may want to revisit some old favorites, or you may want to look at some movies you haven’t seen (or can’t remember having seen). When it comes to viewing, there’s the current fashion of “binge viewing,” such as watching every episode of a TV series’ season one after the other until they’re all seen. That would be pretty easy to do if you have video on demand or an online streaming service available to you. Or, you might be the kind of person who believes that every day should be like Christmas. So if you’re watching “The Polar Express” and the calendar says Jan. 19, I’m not going to tattle on you.

An intern’s farewell to CNS & Rome

By Caroline Hroncich


During my first week in Rome, I attended Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace in Syria (CNS Photo/ Caroline Hroncich)

VATICAN CITY — When I got off the bus before heading into the office on Thursday, I walked down Via della Conciliazione and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. I stopped for a while in front of the Christmas tree, and looked around the square. Over the past four months I’ve been in St. Peter’s Square on many occasions, but there’s something about doing it for one last time that really makes you think.

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my professor’s office at Villanova University discussing the possibility of interning with the Catholic News Service Rome bureau for the semester. I’d never so much as been outside of the United States before, and was unsure what to expect when I set foot in Rome for the first time. But four months later, I can safely say I’ve learned so much about journalism, the Vatican and myself.


My “paparazzi” photo of Jennifer Lopez leaving a store near the Vatican (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

I felt truly welcomed by the CNS staff and honestly felt like this was a place where I could be creative and explore my own ideas. I’ve met so many wonderful people and explored so many new things I could go on for hours about how great each opportunity has been. I took paparazzi shots of Jennifer Lopez, I sat in the ‘VIP’ section at the papal audience, I helped out with the office move, just to mention a few of my many adventures.

When I arrived at Villanova two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be. With so much pressure to decide, the infamous “undeclared” loomed on my transcript until about the last possible second. Once I decided on communications I faced a bigger challenge: What exactly did I want to do with my life? I’d tried my hand in a few areas, but none seemed to fit.

Writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, and interning at CNS really helped me realize that. With the help of the entire CNS staff, I conducted my first interview, wrote my first news story, and my first blog post.


A photo I took of Pope Francis arriving at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 20 (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

This semester has made me realize that regardless of what I end up doing in the future, if I don’t get to write, I won’t truly be happy. I’m thrilled that I’ve been one of the lucky few to have had this experience.

When I board my flight back to the United States on December 21, I will be filled with many mixed emotions. When I think about the things I will miss about Rome (most of which will involve food), CNS trumps it all. In the future, if I return to Rome, I know one of the first places I will visit is the CNS office on Via della Conciliazione.

Editor’s note: Caroline Hroncich is a student at Villanova University and she interned at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau for the semester.

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Be sure to check out some of the other stories Caroline wrote during her time here:

English photographer strives to capture spirituality of the homeless

A Jesuit promotes human dignity, from Central America to the Holy See

Vatican official says not to expect papal encyclical on poverty

From New Jersey to the Vatican, opening a dialogue with the Gospel

A trip down under: Exploring the Vatican necropolis