NEWTOWN—More than 800 faithful filled St. Rose of Lima Parish as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano dedicated and blessed the recently renovated Church and grounds on the 160th anniversary of the Newtown parish.
Changes to the church include extensive interior renovations, the construction of a vestibule for fellowship with 33 stained glass panels that tell the story of Creation, a choir loft, a bride’s room and a Garden of Peace with four brass bells that were given to the parish by a Franciscan community in Maryland after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The bells honor the victims of that tragedy and 9/11, along with children who suffer from violence, and the military and first responders.
During the Mass and celebration including a reception under a large tent in the parish parking lot, the bishop paid tribute to its longtime pastor, Msgr. Robert Weiss, whose efforts in the diocesan capital campaign led to the major renovation—his legacy for the people he has served and loved in tragic and joyful times.
Addressing a packed church, with people standing in the aisles and vestibule, Bishop Caggiano said, “I am delighted to be here to join with you in prayer as we rededicate this beautiful sacred space, a space that would not be possible in its renovation without the remarkable leadership and dedication of Msgr.Weiss for which I am, and we all are, grateful.” Monsignor, who has been pastor 20 years, was given a sustained standing ovation from the congregation.
The multiphase project, titled “We Stand With Christ…An Invitation to Faith and Fellowship Project,” was made possible by almost 1000 donors who contributed $6.2 million. Their effort was part of the larger diocesan capital campaign, which has raised more than $90 million to date for the future needs of its parishes and three foundations for education, charity and faith formation.
The bishop also paid tribute to the parish and said, “This sacred, beautiful living space of dignity would not be possible without yourselves, the person who is sitting next to you, your generosity, your faith and your willingness to build a living temple to the glory of God so that generations to come can know He, who we know and love, as we come here to Calvary and in the mystery of grace receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of the only savior the world will ever know.”
Acknowledging the challenges the parish has faced, the bishop praised them for their faith and perseverance and said their example serves as a powerful evangelization that calls others to Christ in a darkened world.
“My friends, as beautiful as this space is, if you look to your neighbor, you will see someone far more beautiful. And in this community of St. Rose, in times of great darkness and challenge and in times of great triumph and joy, I have seen your beauty with my own eyes,” he said. “The remarkable thing about this parish is that the beauty in these walls is eclipsed by the beauty that is sitting in these pews and in a time of great challenge in the Church and even greater challenge in a world—where there are so many lost and lonely seeking a greater purpose —they can find Him here.”
Bishop Caggiano recalled a trip he made with his family to the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, when his young niece disarmed him with the question, “Uncle Frank, why did they spend all this money building this beautiful church when there are so many poor people in the world they could have fed?”
To which he promptly responded with the typical adult rejoinder, “Be quiet and don’t talk in church.” She repeated the question again outside and he was at a loss to answer her, he said. Only years later did he find a satisfactory response while he was studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He said that during the Middle Ages, when the faithful could neither read nor write, the cathedrals served as “living catechisms, where a person could come and in that architecture be swept up in a transcendence they could not read in a book.”
“Every church unlike any other building made by human hands is a living thing,” he said. “It is meant to be the home of the Mystical Body of Christ so that in its structure, in its beauty, in its reverence, in its silence, each of us and all of us together may encounter the living God.”
Monsignor Weiss said that during its 160-year history, St. Rose of Lima Parish has faced trials and challenges, starting with the Civil War, but it has endured. In his message to the congregation, he said, “I stand today on the shoulders of the pastors, priests, deacons, religious and faithful laity who have made this a true community of faith for 160 years. This place of worship has guided parishioners through some of the most incredible moments in human history. It is and always will remain a place of faith and hope. I have never been more proud to be your pastor than I am today, and I thank God every day for each of you and your love and goodness.”
He thanked Bishop Caggiano for his encouragement in the parish project and recalled that at the outset of the campaign, his initial intention was simply to build a new parking lot. However, the bishop encouraged him to “build for the future and begin writing a new chapter” for St. Rose.
The parish thanked Bishop Caggiano, and as a sign of its appreciation for his leadership, he was given a reliquary with a relic of St. Rose of Lima, followed by a standing ovation.
At the conclusion of the dedication, Bishop Caggiano said, “When Monsignor came to me and spoke about his dream, I asked him to think bigger, and I did it with every confidence because remarkable things can happen when leadership is trusted and loved, and here at St. Rose, Monsignor, everyone in this church trusts you and loves you very much.”
In his comments, Msgr. Weiss thanked the many people who made the project a success.
“The outpouring of good will is a testimony to the faith of the parishioners of Saint Rose, a parish that has truly made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout our 160 years,” he said in his message to the parish. “Our church has been a source of celebration, a place of consolation and a respite from the trials and challenges parishioners face in their everyday lives. Millions of prayers have been offered and thousands of candles have been lit to bring hope, peace, strength and continued faith and trust in God’s love for each of us.”
The renovations also include a bride’s room, a utility room, new entrances, and a new parking area. Saint Rose of Lima Church is located at 46 Church Hill Rd in Newtown.
(For more information contact: 203.426.1014 or visit the website at: www.strosechurch.com.)