Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Monsignor Robert Weiss celebrates 50 years as a Roman Catholic priest
NEWTOWN — It has taken 50 years as a priest — and half of that time here where the Sandy Hook tragedy brought “unimaginable crisis” — for Monsignor Robert Weiss to boil down his advice to the next pastor to two words.
“Be present,” said Weiss, who at 76 has eight months left at St. Rose of Lima until he enjoys the sunset of retirement. “Sandy Hook showed that you don’t always have to be saying something or doing something, but you do have to be there for the people.”
It’s easy enough to say for a veteran spiritual leader whose ministry here and in prior assignments in Bridgeport, Stamford, Monroe and Shelton have been marked by communitybuilding, but Weiss said it’s the only way he has ever known.
“We were fortunate that Fulton Sheen was the bishop in Rochester (New York) when I was in seminary after Vatican II, when all these things were changing,” Weiss told Hearst Connecticut Media during an interview on Friday, one day after the 50th anniversary of his ordination. “And Bishop Sheen said, ‘Don’t sit in the rectory waiting for the doorbell to ring — be a part of your community; not just your church.’”
The year Weiss graduated from seminary in 1968, “so much was going on with sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and the assassination of the Kennedys and (Martin Luther) King that a lot of men in the church were leaving formation,” Weiss said of his early years studying to be a priest in upstate New York. “I had to constantly question myself, ‘How am I going to keep the message of Christ alive in the midst of all this?’”
The answer for Weiss was to say “yes” as much as possible.
“Community building has always been important to me, and when Sandy Hook happened, we really saw the extent of all the community coming together with incredible power,” Weiss said. “We all are gifted with something that we can use to build up community, because that is what the Lord intends for us.”
Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano praised Weiss’s legacy of spiritual leadership, noting that his “long antecedent of ministry that prepared him to serve so memorably in a time of unimaginable crisis.”
“Monsignor Weiss will
Hearst Connecticut Media file photo perhaps forever be defined by his pastoral and personal response to the loss of 26 lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012,” Caggiano said. “When the eyes of the parish, the town and the entire nation were on him, he brought great grace, faith and strength and to all those staggering from the unthinkable. Most importantly, he gave face to the power of faith and its ability to transform lives, even in our darkest moments.”
To mark Weiss’ 50th year as an ordained Roman Catholic priest, wellwishers were planning to toast him during a dinner celebration Saturday at Danbury’s Amber Room Colonnade, and parishioners will celebrate his milestone at a 1:30 p.m. Mass and a 3 p.m. reception Sunday under a tent on St. Rose’s Church Hill Road campus in Newtown.
“Monsignor Weiss has a special way of drawing people in,” said Jeff McKenzie, a longtime pa