“We pray for you today, grateful for your service, and asking God to bless you all.”
---Bishop Robert P. Deeley
BANGOR---The large American flag, held in place atop ladder trucks provided by the Bangor and Veazie Fire Departments, waved in a slight breeze as the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps and the Maine State Police Pipe and Drum Unit offered a stirring performance of “Amazing Grace.” Honor guards from around the area lined the pavement in front of St. John Church, standing reverently as the music made its way down York Street and beyond.
The scene greeted hundreds of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, parishioners, and community members as they entered St. John Church for the Blue Mass on Sunday, September 10, in Bangor (additional pictures below). The Mass annually bestows blessings upon all who contribute to public safety and health in Maine and honors first responders for their heroic service.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, who noted that it was a particularly fitting time to honor this community as first responders in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and other areas have protected and served bravely in recent weeks.
“We do not need to wait until a disaster strikes to be grateful for the dedication of all of those whose life work is the protection of the public,” said the bishop during his homily. “In this Blue Mass, our purpose in being here is not only to thank you for your service to society, but also to thank God for your service, and to ask God’s blessing on each of you. May He protect you as you serve us. That is certainly our prayer today.”
Every pew of the church was filled with people wishing to join the bishop in sharing their gratitude for the courageous men and women being honored, many of whom wore their uniforms to the Mass.
Senator Susan Collins, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, state senators and representatives, city councilors, and local mayors were among the many dignitaries who attended.
“Their presence is a tribute to the work that is done by all who serve,” said the bishop. “We are grateful that they come this morning to join us in honoring those who serve and to join with us in our prayer that God will watch over and care for all who serve to ensure public safety.”
Many of the Mass’ participants are also connected to the public safety community, including Deacon Jeffrey Lewis, who is currently the chaplain for the Gardiner Fire Department, was an EMS provider for over 38 years, and has served as a firefighter.
“For all whose vocation it is to protect and serve the public, especially all military personnel, firefighters and law enforcement officers; all immigration, customs and border patrol officials; and all emergency medical services personnel…may they be strengthened and protected as they continue their humanitarian service within our communities,” said Deacon Lewis during the Universal Prayer.
Captain Robert Welch of the University of Maine Police Department and Trooper Trevor Snow of the Maine State Police served as readers, while representatives from the Bangor Police Department, Bangor Fire Department, and Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department served as gift bearers.
Bishop Deeley told the public safety officials in attendance that their work is service in the way Jesus calls all of us to take care of each other.
“You have responded to a call to serve the community, the common good, to build a just society, and to protect the vulnerable,” said the bishop. “We pray for you today, grateful for your service, and asking God to bless you all. And, we pray as well for our society that your service might remind all of us of the need to strengthen the community within which we live by living lives beyond our own self-interest and devoted to helping each other.”
At the end of the Mass, a multi-jurisdictional color guard retired the colors. The bishop, concelebrating priests, and deacons then processed out of the church and onto the sidewalk. They were joined by many who had gathered as a silver bell was rung in front of the church, remembering those who have given their lives in the line of duty, and the pipe and drum corps performed underneath the American flag.
The events of September 11, 2001, served as the impetus for the Diocese of Portland to institute the Blue Mass, which refers to the blue uniforms that firefighters, law enforcement and other first responders wear. The Blue Mass is planned and organized by diocesan officials and representatives from local, county, and state public safety agencies.
Following the Mass, a reception hosted by the Knights of Columbus was held in the parish hall. To view videos from the day, visit the diocesan Facebook page.