GREEN BAY — Gratitude summarized the message delivered to members of the public safety profession during the annual Blue Mass celebrated Sept. 18 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Bishop David Ricken, along with five priests (Frs. Dan Felton, Richard Getchel, Scott Valentyn, Joseph Dorner and Antoine Boucheron) and two deacons (Tom Mahoney and David Parker) presided at the liturgy, which was attended by numerous uniformed police and fire department personnel.
“We join in expressing our deepest gratitude to you for all of the sacrifices you make to put your lives in danger in defense of the public good,” said Bishop Ricken during his homily. He said the service, attended by Catholics and non-Catholics, was an opportunity for community members “to say thank you. … I am hoping people will not take you for granted, but recognize that you and your families make tremendous sacrifices to serve us and to keep us safe and to keep peace flourishing through our communities.”
Bishop Ricken offered a brief history of the Blue Mass. He said the first Blue Mass was celebrated on Sept. 29, 1934, by Fr. Thomas Dade, founder of the Catholic Police and Fire Society, at St. Patrick Church in Washington, D.C. Over the years, and especially after 9/11, more church leaders around the country are sponsoring them annually.
In addition to showing gratitude, Bishop Ricken said the Mass was also an opportunity for the community to show solidarity with all public safety members and to extend a blessing upon them.
Public safety personnel often face challenges that can test them, said Bishop Ricken. “When you’re out there and it’s very hard, you might be tempted to lose your patience. But just remember that people are behind you, praying for you. God is right there with you. The Holy Spirit is there to help you and assist you.”
Law enforcement officials sometimes have to make “split-second decisions that are very hard to make,” said Bishop Ricken, “so you need divine inspiration to help you make a good call.” While their professional training gives them guidance, they can also “call upon the divine Lord” in times of trouble.
Uniformed professionals are frequently asked to be guardians of public safety, said Bishop Ricken. Just as they are guardians, they can also turn to their guardian angels for their own safety, he added.
“God has appointed each one of you a guardian angel. You know what guardianship is about, now take that to a spiritual level,” said Bishop Ricken. He recited the familiar “Angel of God” prayer and added that it’s just as applicable to them as it is to children.
Bishop Ricken also told those in attendance to seek the protection of St. Michael the Archangel. “As you march into a difficult situation, don’t forget to take your spiritual weaponry with you.”
Community solidarity is important to easing tension that law enforcement members experience today, said Bishop Ricken. “The reason you have to answer to these terrible situations is that human relationships break down. There is domestic violence, there is violence or hatred of one race or another,” he said. “A community is only as strong as their leaders, both civil, religious, and all other leaders, including families.”
Community action — rooted in the adage, “If you see something, say something” — is one concrete way to form solidarity, the bishop said. “If we see something … reach out to those who may be in need … so that things don’t escalate and get out of control,” he said. “It’s the work of all of us. So if I could be of any help to any of you … I will do my very best, and I know that our priests in each community will do as well.”
His closing message to everyone gathered at the Blue Mass: “Put God first and everything else falls into place.”
Bishop Ricken said he prays that the Blue Mass continues to grow each year, “not because of tragedy, but because we appreciate more deeply the gift that you are to all of us.”
Following Communion, Bishop Ricken recited a blessing over all public service members, who stood and placed hands on their badges.
The Blue Mass was organized by the diocese in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, Fr. Marquette Council and St. Jude Assembly, and in partnership with the Fraternal Order of Police, Green Bay.
To view more photos from the Blue Mass, visit our Flickr page.