Blue Mass service honors those who serve
Police, firefighters and all other first responders were honored for their heroic sacrifice and service at the annual Blue Mass held at St. Joseph Cathedral on Sept. 10.
“My brothers and sisters, welcome to our annual Blue Mass where we honor all of our men and women who protect our community,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher in welcoming the congregation, many of whom arrived in uniform. “This is an opportunity to offer our prayers, our support, as well as our Lord’s protection over them as they carry out their duties of service.”
In his homily, Bishop Fisher told how he knew the dangers that first responders face when they answer a call. Several of his family members serve as police officers and firefighters.
“Because by your presence and your participation in this Mass, you unite your giving and your service to something bigger than yourself and your job becomes truly a vocation. And that’s what we need to recognize, our brothers and sisters.”
The bishop recognized that violence is part of human nature, but suggested communication as an alternative to settle issues.
“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear or see someone counting a bloodshed or other bad things that happen in our community and around the world. Human discord, division, disdain, spawned violence. So, has it always been, unfortunately, a part of our human condition.
“Amidst this violence, animosity, and deceit in society, the Blue Mass is an occasion to confirm, again, our appreciation for the moral witness of those who accept the task to stand between us and harm.
“By putting on the uniform or the badge, they announce that there is a better way. There can be a community of justice, order, compassion, goodness and peace. Their lives of service are a witness to the hope and faith of all of us that the better side of our human nature and experience can be sustained and flourish.
The day’s readings show God reminding Ezekiel that we are responsible for the care of one another. That includes counseling and warning others of the consequences of their actions in order to save them.
“So, the onus lies on us to be a brother and sister’s keeper,” the bishop explained. “This is what God is saying, that we are responsible for one another. Unfortunately, today, while things go wrong, many prefer to keep quiet, to not get involved, to join the majority and pretend nothing is wrong. We must also make ourselves heard when it comes to the good of our community, the common good.
“This is because the indifference or silence we may display today might hurt us tomorrow. However, we must be mindful that God says, ‘I do not delight in the death of a sinner, let him repent and live.’”
Deacon Dave Augustyniak, who ministers at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Niagara Falls, served at the Mass. He also spent 33 years as a police officer. He found the calling to serve and protect through prayer. Coincidentally, that’s also how he found his diaconal vocation.
“It’s all service. I became a mental health counselor after I retired, and a deacon, and people would ask me how do you make the transition from doing police work to doing mental health to doing the work that deacons do pastorally. I said, my clientele hasn’t changed. It’s not because the people I arrest. It’s the people who are victims. I talk to victims all the time working for mental health. I work for Catholic Charities as well. It was an easy transition for me because it is all about service,” he explained.
Michael Collins, a firefighter with the Ellicott Creek Fire Company in Amherst, enjoyed the honor to first responders.
“It was great to hear the bishop recognize the efforts of those in the community,” he said.
Officer Pat Murphy, who patrols the Town of Hamburg, called the Mass, “Beautiful.”
“It’s a great service to honor service,” he said.
The first Blue Mass was celebrated in September of 1934 by Father Thomas Dade of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Coincidentally, Father Dade also presided over the wedding of Bishop Fisher’s parents.
Listen to Michael Mroziak’s report.