Adams-Shepherd was one of many religious leaders throughout the town, the country and beyond that struggled to make sense of the tragedy. Down the street, a church member at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church –where the families of half of the slain children were parishioners -- read out a message of prayer from Pope Benedict XVI, while monsignor Msgr. Jerald A. Doyle, told hundreds of parishioners who crammed into the church that the world outside has not forgotten them.
“You are not alone,” he said. “The entire believing community, the diocese and beyond, is praying that that word [of Jesus Christ] will come and will take root in your hearts.”
But the midday mass at the church, which has become an epicenter of this town’s mourning, was interrupted and worshipers evacuated when someone called in a threat.
Around noon, a person called the church and, according to a Connecticut State trooper, said, “I’m going to kill everyone there. My friend didn’t finish the job.” Shortly after the call was received, a trooper interrupted Monseignor Weiss during an interview with a Washington Post reporter. “Father, we’re taking this as a credible threat. We need to evacuate the church,” the trooper said.
Weiss helped lead the evacuation, and the church emptied without incident. Afterward, SWAT officers in military-style clothing entered to search the church, but found nothing.
St. Rose had been open 24 hours daily, but after the threat and sweep, the church was locked and evening mass was canceled.
Police say that on Friday, Adam Lanza, 20 shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, 52, to death then drove to Sandy Hook, where he shot out a pane of glass and entered the school at 9:30 a.m. He used a semiautomatic rifle to kill 20 children and six adults inside the school, then shot himself to death with a pistol.
The tragedy has placed religion at the center of the town’s life. A hand-drawn sign at the Interstate I-84 off-ramp reads “Pray for Newtown.”
St. Rose of Lima, has emerged as a kind of central meeting place for mourners seeking for consolation and reporters seeking to chronicle their suffering for audiences around the world. It was here on Saturday, that Olivia and Tess Mubarek, 12-year-old twins who had lost their former teachers in the shooting, came to release a bouquet of 26 gold and blue balloons.
On Friday, a spill over crowd of several hundred residents converged on the church for a vigil. “In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, I ask God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love,” according to a message from Pope Benedict XVI that was read out to parishioners.