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Newtown’s Long Journey

AFP.Brendan Smialowski

John Burger - published on 12/08/13 - updated on 06/07/17

“At that point in my life, God meant church. Church was Sunday, and Sunday was my time. So if it fit in, we would go to church,” she recalled. But she made a deal with God: that if he kept Frederick safe, she would change.

Frederick made it through the health scare. As he and Catherine grew up and started school, they made friends, and through them, “God put people in my life that helped me to dig deeper into my relationship with him,” Hubbard said. She started to pray more, read Scripture and teach catechism.

“Before long, I once again found myself in a renewed relationship with Jesus,” she said. “I felt serenity in knowing that God was in control and that his gentle hand would hold mine as he leads me through life.”

It was the preparation she needed for Dec. 14, 2012. “This time I did not feel the need to make any deals,” she said. “I rested in the peace knowing that Catherine had gone home to God. I drew comfort knowing that God would not falter to show us the way out of such deep sadness.”

Help from Near and Far

In the wake of the funerals, the parish met with parents and those affected by the tragedy, providing resources on Catholic teachings about life after death. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Bridgeport met with catechists and parents to provide tools for helping children. Some were still quite traumatized by what they had seen and heard during the shooting spree. Catholic Charities arranged for a counselor, Douglas Thompson, to meet with anyone who needed to talk.

“They were pretty small groups, which was nice because whatever concerns they had they were able to say – whether it was a concern of the teacher of ‘what about if this happens in a classroom’ or if it was a concern of a parent such as ‘I don’t know what to do with my child’s dreams and their fear at night,’” Arsenault said.

Thompson recently led a workshop for men in the parish on how they can help themselves and their family cope with trauma and grief and identify mental health needs.

“Our concern is, as the anniversary of the tragedy is coming up, we want to be prepared as fathers and heads of households to help our families through that time,” said Pat Gorman, co-chairman of the local Knights of Columbus’ Culture of Life Committee, which sponsored the workshop. Gorman hopes the parish’s new men’s ministry also will provide an avenue for men to share their concerns with one another.

There was much unsolicited help, as well, from near and far. A woman in Louisiana, for example, raised funds to purchase Jesus and Mary dolls that were given out at the first Communion Mass in May. The dolls, about two feet tall, have a red embroidered heart under the shirts. “They’re really soft, so the children were finding such comfort in these, sleeping with them, hugging them,” Arsenault said. “And then parents would come in afterwards and say, ‘Gosh, you can’t believe, the kids are all bringing them to their sleepover parties now.’ So then we had people coming in saying, ‘I’m not Catholic, but could I have a Mary doll for my child?’ because the children were sharing them. So in a sense, we saw children evangelizing, saying ‘You can find comfort with God; you can find comfort with Jesus.’”

And then there were the therapy dogs – canines that are certified to give comfort to people who are sick or traumatized. A number of people with such dogs came to the area, including a School Sister of Notre Dame from New Jersey, Sister Mary Foley.

“She offered to meet with the children who were having more sensitivity to the whole issue,” Arsenault said. “They were having difficulty reentering religious ed class.”

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