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Newtown's retiring 'Father Bob' honored on Congress floor

Monsignor Robert Weiss stands in the Peace Garden at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown on May 26, 2022. The paved center is a burial vault containing all of the notes, gifts and letters left behind at the initial memorial in the days after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public
Monsignor Robert Weiss stands in the Peace Garden at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown on May 26, 2022. The paved center is a burial vault containing all of the notes, gifts and letters left behind at the initial memorial in the days after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Monsignor Robert Weiss — a priest in Newtown, Connecticut — was honored on the floor of the U.S. Congress after his retirement last month. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) acknowledged Weiss for consoling the Newtown community after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children and six educators.

Murphy praised Weiss — affectionately known as Father Bob — for his response to the shooting.

“In the days, weeks, and years after that tragedy at Sandy Hook, he led with his heart on his sleeve, he helped heal a broken community, more than anyone else, he bore the burden — separate and aside from the families, who bore the majority of that burden," Murphy said. "Father Bob’s career would have been remarkable even if December 14, 2012, never happened. But what he did that day, what he did in the days and the weeks and the years that followed, that makes him a legend.”

Weiss spoke with WSHU for the podcast series Still Newtown in 2022. He said the response to the shooting taught him the power of community.

“You don't need a lot of bells and whistles, you just need a lot of hearts and hands," he said. "There are people that to this day said, ‘I never even met this neighbor I live next door to for four years until this happened. And I think it just shows, all those placards — faith, family, friends — it works.”

Weiss spent 50 years as a priest and served at St. Rose of Lima Parish for nearly 25 years. He was supposed to retire in 2021 but pushed his retirement back by three years. His final mass in January drew standing ovations.

“Let’s use the day and the grace God gives us for the best. And let’s continue to live as He wants us to live. The Lord be with you. ... And one final time, may God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.