Connecticut shooting: Services for Katonah native Anne Marie Murphy set

Father Michael Brisson of St. Mary of the Father Michael Brisson of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Katonah greets parishioners after Mass Dec. 16. Photo Credit: Timothy O'Connor

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Funeral services for Sandy Hook Elementary School hero Anne Marie Murphy were announced Sunday even as she was remembered by parishioners at her hometown church in Katonah.St. Mary of the Assumption was crowded with some 200 somber faces Sunday morning. A purple sash on the altar was the only mark of the holiday season.

Murphy, 52, a special education teacher, died Friday at the Newtown, Conn., school protecting the children she loved.

"Our culture is in need of healing. It is dying," the Rev. Michael Brisson said in his Sunday homily.

As a gunman fired a fusillade of bullets at the school Friday, Murphy shielded the bodies of students, authorities told her father, Hugh McGowan of Katonah. Her body was found in a classroom, they told him, covering a group of children who died in the tragic shooting that left 27 dead, including 20 6- and 7-year-olds.

Murphy will be laid to rest Thursday following a 10 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption. Visiting hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Clark Associates Funeral Home in Katonah, said the funeral home's message service.

On her way into understated white-frame church Sunday, Margaret Brusic of Katonah reflected on the tragedy.

"It's just all so senseless," Brusic said. "I saw the list of names in the newspaper and their ages. Six years old ... it leaves you speechless."

Murphy was raised in Katonah, the sixth of seven children. Her parents described the married mother of four as an artistic, fun-loving painter. Her dad said she was "witty" and "hardworking."

Brisson said Sunday that the McGowans attended Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption on Saturday, as they always do, and sat in the same pew that they always do.

But at the end of that Mass, Hugh McGowan rose to speak to the congregation. He asked them to pray the Hail Mary with him.

"He was able to stand tall; he is able to rejoice because of his faith," Brisson said Sunday in a calm, reflective voice.

On Dec. 16, the Catholic Church marks the third Sunday of Advent, at which worshipers are told to rejoice.

The pastor said he was having a hard time doing that. He called on parishioners to use their gifts to help heal a sick culture.

"We can build a culture of life by changing hearts one by one," Brisson said. "It's not enough just to be good ourselves. We need to use our gifts and talents to change hearts ... to counteract the evil with good."

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