"Big Four" Highlights


A Father Reflects

With faith, tragedy never has the last word

John Moulder and his wife, Laura, live in Newtown, Conn., with their three children, one of whom attends Newtown High School and two of whom are students at St. Rose of Lima School there.

Fathers for Good asked him to reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. He is past grand knight of St. Virgilius Council 185, which received the Knights of Columbus Caritas Award for charitable service in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Fathers for Good: What do the words “hope” and “healing” mean for you in these past months?

John Moulder: Hope can be a difficult thing to find after such a senseless tragedy. Hope depends on faith. The loss of innocent lives in such a horrific manner coupled with the loss of innocence for those left behind causes one’s faith to be shaken to its very core: “I thought God triumphs over evil. Where was he on December 14th?” My wife found a wonderful image of Jesus standing in a meadow with outstretched arms greeting young children running toward him with smiles on their faces as butterflies and puppies scampered about. Behind Jesus was the bright light of Paradise. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that image answered in clearest terms where God was on that day and why I have great hope in what is promised to those who stay faithful to Christ.

My children have had to heal from broken bones, childhood ailments, and even minor brain surgery. The process for dealing with these issues is fairly common. Symptoms arise, diagnoses are made and explained, and if all goes well the condition is cured and the whole ordeal fades into their memories. Trying to “heal” from this tragedy is much more complex. There are no prescriptions to write that will make the feelings unlocked that day go away. Children who went to school and played in this bucolic town with little to worry about except how much homework they had suddenly found a whole new range of emotions they never had to deal with before. As parents, my wife and I had to redouble our commitment to prayer and faith discussions with our children. We had to try and explain the battle between good and evil. We had to be patient as they processed all that was happening around them and slowly began to trust again. My wife and I also needed to help and reassure each other so that as we drew strength from our faith, we could pass this on to our children and as a family begin the long road of trying to heal from an event that will be a part of our lives forever.

FFG: How has your Catholic faith helped?

Moulder: Without question, from the very beginning my Catholic faith has been the foundation of the healing process. On the night of Dec. 14, our family gathered with so many other Newtown families at St. Rose of Lima church to pray together as a community of faith. Windows were opened so the many hundreds standing outside could hear the Mass and the comforting words of our pastor, Msgr. Bob Weiss. It was such a powerful witness to see so many faithful people turning together and lifting their voices to God. The St. Rose Youth Group immediately arranged for a night of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Knights of Columbus council provided security for this event as so many were still concerned about safety. During the adoration, Father Ignacio Ortega, a parochial vicar at St. Rose, carried the monstrance, literally bringing Jesus to each and every person there. I was privileged to be in attendance with my children during this time and it was an extremely powerful experience. Thank God for our Catholic faith, which allowed Christ to physically be there with us as we dealt with such a traumatic event.

FFG: As a father, what message have you given your children?

Moulder: The first message I tried to give my children was that those innocent children who lost their lives that day were with Jesus. They were not suffering. I told them there was no explanation that I could give them that would satisfactorily explain why this tragedy happened. It is a mystery that only God understands. I told them in times like these, instead of turning from God we must draw closer to him and hear the message he is trying to deliver. I have tried to point out everyday examples of God’s love for them. I tell them where I see God working in their lives. Since the tragedy, I have tried to make sure my children see and feel the presence of God even in the seemingly mundane events of their everyday lives. I also explained we cannot promise that nothing bad will ever happen to them again, but assured them that God is always with them. Even if they are in the midst of turmoil, their faith in him will give them the strength they need to handle it. I try to impress upon them that God loves them immeasurably and wants a meaningful relationship with them. I have encouraged them to pray often and seek God’s blessings in their lives.