IN MEMORY: Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012

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St. Rose Church display remembers fallen victims at Sandy Hook Elementary

By Brandon Mattingly


On Dec. 14, a gunman in Newtown, Conn. committed one of the most heinous and highly-publicized crimes in the country’s history, and recently a local church made a gesture to remember those that died that day.

To the northern side of St. Rose Church in Springfield sits a statue: “Rachel weeping for her children.”   It’s primarily served as a symbol of the church’s pro-life beliefs. The image of Rachel, however, represents all parents who have lost a child. In recognition of that, the statue is now surrounded by 26 crosses for the 20 children and six adults that were killed in last month’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“That’s what the Rachel statue symbolizes,” said Jessica Smith, a member of the St. Rose Respect Life group that came up with the idea for the crosses. “I thought that would be a great way to utilize her, because those parents are going through so much.”

The Rev. James Murray, O.P. constructed the crosses and on Dec. 28 they were placed around the statue as part of the Feast of the Holy Innocents mass. The Rev. Kevin McGrath, O.P. said that even though the tragedy does not have a local connection, it’s not difficult for those of us in Central Kentucky to sympathize with the families of the victims.

“It’s not local, but with the way media is now, tragedies happen and everyone knows about it,” he said. “Tragedies like that really touch people to the heart, because they have their own children and their own families. I think everybody knows how fragile human life is and it’s an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the preciousness of life and how important it is for us, even in the face of such horrors, to trust in God and in his love for us.”

Smith said it’s been impossible for her to put herself in those Connecticut families’ shoes, but that she just knows they need support.

“I have four boys and the youngest one is five, similar to the ages of the children who were killed and I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering that the parents and the families are going through,” she said. “I feel that we need to give them all the prayers that we can give them, because they need all the help and strength that they can get.”

Smith said feedback from parishioners and visitors to St. Rose has been completely supportive of the display. Some have already commented that they were very aware of what happened in Newtown, but hadn’t taken the time to read all of the names of the victims until now. It’s a visually-striking gesture that appears to be doing just what it was meant to, invoke thought. Still, it’s impossible to truly understand what the families in Connecticut are experiencing.

“Even though we put those crosses in the ground with each of those children’s name on them, it still doesn’t hit you,” Smith said. “We don’t go through the real-life, day-to-day fight that they’re going through trying to live with this.”

Those in Newtown have noted the waves of support they’ve received over the last four weeks, as countless people around the country have offered various forms of assistance. They’ll soon know that they’re in the thoughts and prayers of Central Kentuckians as well.

“The Catholic parish that many of the families in Newton belong to is St. Rose Catholic Church. My plan is to send a picture of what we’ve done here to the church there,” McGrath said.

When posed with the question of what she wants people to take away from the display outside of Springfield’s St. Rose Church, Smith reiterated what the tragedy has already proven.

“Remember that life is precious,” she said.