What happened in Connecticut has resulted in great displays of charity and compassion for the victims and their families. Earlier this week, I was listening to Timothy Cardinal Dolan saying how he would be doing the funeral today for one of the teachers killed, and how he did not know what he would say. I prayed for him, as I am sure a lot of people did, and I was happy to see that he found the right words, reminding the mourners that this woman's final act, to use herself to protect her students, was like Jesus' own acts.
But I also saw this and it made me think about people who get overlooked at these times of sadness:
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now…. Monsignor … is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…. The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.
My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.
I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.
But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.
Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.
I am so grateful to live in this community. We are all so blessed with one another. Every day, I see you all loving one another as Christ loved. Thank you for letting me reach out to you now.
Think of Fr. Luke and Msgr. Weiss - they are hurting. Think of the first responders, the police who had to walk in as the first witnesses - they are hurting, too.
I remember a story told to me by a priest who was a former friend, how he found himself as junior man on the totem pole the only priest at his parish when 9/11 occurred, and how scared he was that he would not have the right words to say or the right thing to do. But . . . he did what the Holy Spirit led him to do and people were comforted. Sincerity overcame inexperience with a tragedy of great magnitude.
So, pray for Fr. Luke and Msgr. Weiss the same as you might pray for Cardinal Dolan. These men have suddenly become the "go to" guys by people in a great deal of pain and doubt and turmoil. And think about sending a card.
And send one, too, for these folks:
Newtown Police Department
3 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470
Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co.
18 Riverside Rd
Sandy Hook, CT 06482