SAN ANTONIO (CNS) — The pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., and the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council were honored Aug. 6 with a new award from the Knights of Columbus at the order’s 131st supreme convention in San Antonio.

Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima, and St. Virgilius Knights of Columbus Council 185, represented by Grand Knight Timothy Haas, were presented the first Caritas Awards by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in recognition of “extraordinary works of charity and service.”

Newtown was the scene of last December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that resulted in the deaths of 26 residents, most of whom were young schoolchildren.

“Heroes rise to the occasion,” said Anderson at the States’ Dinner before an audience of some 2,000 Knights and their families. “Msgr. Weiss was heroic in the face of unimaginable tragedy.”

Anderson then described how Msgr. Weiss was supported by his brother Knights of Newtown’s St. Virgilius Council.

The council was honored for starting a program that asked people to pray a minimum of three Hail Marys for the victims and their families. More than 105,000 people signed up, offering a total of more than 3.25 million prayers.

The Knights also served as ushers for the many funerals, most of which were for children, and helped in the parish in myriad ways, such as handling voluminous correspondence and gifts which poured in from across the country.

Carolyn Previdi, one of the children killed, had been saving money to help in the council’s annual Christmas toy drive for children in need. In her honor, council members raise more than $70,000 for toys in her memory.

“We realized we were part of something bigger than ourselves; we are part of the universal church,” said Msgr. Weiss. “The Knights made our church a place of welcome for all faiths.”

The new award was established earlier this year by a vote of the Knights of Columbus board of directors and will be conferred on future recipients when merited. The Caritas Award becomes the second international award given by the organization.

Previously, the Knights of Columbus has, on occasion, given its Gaudium et Spes Award, which has been conferred in recent years on Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, and Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a network of faith-based communities that care for people with developmental disabilities.

The Knights also announced financial support of $100,000 for ongoing parish programs of help and healing in Newtown.

In addition to the awards presentation the dinner gathering featured a keynote address from Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, an invocation by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, as well as remarks from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard W. Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, immediate past president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.


McMorrough is editor of Today’s Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio