By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

As hundreds of law enforcement agents, firefighters and paramedics remained on watch on the streets, highways and waterways of Louisiana, many of their colleagues gathered at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge on Monday, Sept. 16 to pray for them, their families and to remember those who have died.  

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Bishop Michael Duca with assistance from Father Miles Walsh blesses the vehicles used by agents of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries following the Blue Mass held Sept. 16 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator  

 

A crowd of men and women dressed in uniforms gathered for the annual Blue Mass, which is celebrated for those employed in public safety. The first responders represented departments in the civil parishes of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Lafourche, Orleans, Natchitoches and DeSoto, along with the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Police, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Acadian Ambulance.  

Also among the attendees were Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and attorney general Jeff Landry. The Mass began with the song “America, the Beautiful,” with a procession of one uniformed person representing each of the agencies in attendance. Bishop Michael G. Duca celebrated the Mass with concelebrants Father Miles Walsh, Father Jeff Bayhi and Father Matthew Graham.  

During his homily, the bishop prayed for all of those attending as well as their support staff and families.  

“This year it is an honor and a privilege to share with you this Blue Mass as we pray for those who serve us in law enforcement: police and sheriffs, firefighters, medical technicians, wildlife and fisheries agents and all of your support staff, especially your support staff, and auxiliaries that make this work possible,” said Bishop Duca.  

The bishop also offered a prayer for government leaders “who, in a larger sense, manage our city and state, the attorney general, the mayor and all those who are part of this whole process of law enforcement in establishing our cities as a place of safety and opportunity.”  

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First responders representing departments in the civil parishes East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Lafourche, Orleans, Natchitoches and DeSoto, along with the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Police, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Acadian Ambulance attend the Blue Mass Sept. 16.  

 

He added a remembrance for those who died during the past year. 

“The loss of anyone in our community affects us and just that much more deeply, considering your commitment to and what your commitment asks of you, and how you share that responsibility together which makes those deaths more meaningful and impactful in your life,” said the bishop.  

Bishop Duca told the officers, firefighters and EMS workers that they chose “a vocation to protect and serve” and noted the importance of that term.  

“It can be just a job if you want it to be, but I would suspect being in the fields that you are, first responders, people who by nature run towards a difficulty rather than away from it, are called to be the ones that begin the process of healing and restoration when law and order breaks down in our community,” he stated.  

The bishop added the first responders bring hope to the community by believing in the laws that protect society and putting their lives on the line to protect others.  

“We have you as a sign of hope in our lives,” said Bishop Duca.  

The bishop finished his homily with a prayer asking for the angels of God to protect the first responders and remind them of their “great call as agents of justice and order.” He also prayed that the men and women continued in their vocation with “hope and courage and commitment of service.”  

“And, that you not lose hope,” the bishop continued. “And if you do, go to your brothers and sisters and ask them to help you to serve. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is the one thing that makes us most human, draws us into a community and does not allow us to act alone. Together we’re strong. Together we share hope.”  

After the Mass, the bishop along with Father Walsh, Father Bayhi and Father Graham blessed the vehicles and motorcycles of the first responders followed by a luncheon reception in the parish hall.  

The Blue Mass dates back to Sept. 29, 1934 when the first Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C. The date was chosen to coincide with the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police officers and military. The color blue denotes the predominate color of uniforms.