Police officers, firefighters and first responders who put their lives on the line and sacrifice to keep the community safe received recognition at a special Blue Mass, held Nov. 6, at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo, coincidently next to the former police station.
An honor guard marched through the cathedral, flags in hand, as uniformed officers sat watching.
“It’s wonderful to be able to gather with all of our law enforcement officers, those who are first responders, and those who have been entrusted with the care and protection of our community and our society. We bring them together today in a very special way to bless them and their families,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher in his welcoming. This was the first Blue Mass to be celebrated in the diocese since Covid pandemic began in 2020.
The readings for the day had a sense of urgency and hope, Bishop Fisher noted, as St. Paul tried to express to the Thessalonians that they needed to be ready and have a sense of hope and belief in the Resurrection.
The bishop said that urgency and sense of hope coincides with the ones being honored at the Mass. “They know what a sense of urgency is, but I wonder if they know of the hope that they bring to those who they are called to serve,” he said.
Bishop Fisher himself has two brothers and a nephew who are police officers in Maryland. His sister and brother-in-law served as firefighters in the Air Force.
The bishop went on to talk about his Uncle Mike being one of his heroes. After retiring from the Navy, where he traveled to the North and South Pole with Admiral Byrd, he became a police officer in Washington, D.C.
“I think all of us look up to our men and women who are in law enforcement,” he said. “I know these days they have been going through quite a bit of challenge in their professional career, but this is an opportunity for us to support them with our prayers and let them know we appreciate all that they do for us.”
Bishop Fisher pointed to the comic book superheroes such as Spiderman that have captured the attention of children of all ages. Kids see people in uniforms as protectors, and often want to be bigger than life heroes.
Children and adults alike look up to police, firefighters and first responders because, “We see in you the awesome responsibilities to protect, to give of your selves in public service and to comfort the afflicted that you encounter every day in your work. Similarly blessing your work, God gives you divine grace in order that you might also bear witness to God’s love and mercy to protecting the weak, giving of yourselves in service, and comforting the afflicted. You have been given a mission, and although at times it may involve you facing the broken and sinful side of humanity, you are nevertheless called to protect, to give of yourselves, and to offer care and comfort.”
Lt. Salvatore Losi, of the Buffalo Police Department, came in uniform and spoke with the bishop after Mass.
“It was very nice,” he said of the event. “The bishop’s connection to the first responders certainly surprised us. We didn’t realize how deep his connections are in the law enforcement and first responder community.”
Although the bishop spoke of first responders as heroes, there has been a cry of dissent from certain communities lately. Some even call to defund the police.
“It’s been very challenging,” Losi said. “We know the majority of society does support us. We’ve had to keep that in mind, that some of the challenges that we face are temporary and we need to focus on the positives in the good that we are doing and the good people we are protecting and serving.”
Buffalo Police Officer James Matyjasik liked that he could bring his wife, daughter and parents to see the him and his associates honored.
“I think it was wonderful,” he said.