Both inspirational and colorful, the annual “Blue Mass” at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral drew dozens of police officers, firefighters and other law enforcement and emergency personnel, both active and retired.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares presided over the Mass of Thanksgiving for All Emergency Personnel on Nov. 5.
An honor guard and bagpipes-and-drums ensemble led the way into and out of the church. Special emphasis was placed on those who died in the line of duty in Arizona. They included Chandler officer David Smith Payne, Flagstaff officer Tyler Jacob Stewart, Navajo Nation officer Ernest Montoya, Sr., and DPS Sgt. Mark Dryer. Numerous other emergency personnel who passed away in the past year also were remembered.
“It’s good and holy to pray for those who have died, especially those in public service,” Bishop Olmsted told the assembly.
He also thanked the members of the families of emergency workers who share in their sacrifices.
“Our gratitude is deepened by our awareness that you face danger on a daily basis, that at any moment you must respond…with courage to keep others safe, to preserve peace and defend the common good.
“This is a great service in our state. With profound appreciation, we welcome you here today.”
Afterward, those in attendance said they welcomed the chance to remember the fallen and appreciated the diocese’s recognition of their work.
“I’m here because of the fallen brothers and to honor them,” said Raymond Maione, Sr., a retired member of the New York City Fire Department. “That’s what the rest of us need to do, always. Never forget what they’ve done.”
“It’s important,” added Phoenix police officer Aimee Knight-Fogel. “It makes me feel better. I have that spiritual part of my day that I rely on. Then I can keep going on with my day.”
In his homily, Bishop Olmsted referenced the parable of the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to search for a single lost sheep until he finds, taken from the day’s gospel reading from Luke. He spoke of the joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 who need no repentance.
“The 99 represent the reality of heaven that Jesus left behind,” said Bishop Olmsted said, “… in order to search out … all of us who are lost because of sin.
“As we gather to pray for those who have died and those have served us, as many of you are serving us now, we gather … recognizing that when any of us makes mistakes,” no one is without God’s mercy, he added. “As so, we are ourselves should be merciful and patient with one another.”
— By Mike Tulumello, The Catholic Sun.