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Sixth annual Blue Mass honors emergency personnel

Emma Driscoll | Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Notre Dame community took time Wednesday afternoon to honor local firefighters, police officers and emergency response people at the sixth annual Blue Mass.

University President Father John Jenkins presided over the Mass and called these occupations “special expression[s] of Christian service and generosity.”

During his homily, Director of Campus Ministry Father Richard Warner emphasized how easy it is for many people to take certain things in life for granted until they are altered or removed.

“Since Sept. 11, [citizens] have a much deeper appreciation for everyday commitment and dedication from each of you,” Warner told the officers and emergency personnel in attendance – a feeling, he said, that will continue to resonate in the future.

“[The] work becomes a mission and a ministry as we come together to build a society where there is peace and justice,” Warner said.

After communion, former Indiana governor and former South Bend mayor Joe Kernan expressed gratitude for the officers’ and emergency personnel’s crucial role in providing safety and security.

“We hold you [officers and emergency personnel] in the highest regard – we admire you to the greatest degree,” Kernan said.

Kernan said the work done by those who keep the community safe is difficult and requires vigilance, and he assured the workers they would be in the community’s prayers.

Officers and emergency response personnel served as lectors and took part in the presentation of the gifts.

The Blue Mass “started in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks,” Basilica Rector Father Peter Rocca said.

“I think our first [Blue Mass] was about a month [after the Sept. 11 attacks],” he said.

It is called the Blue Mass, Rocca said, “because of the color of the uniform frequently worn by police officers and firefighters.”

People traveled great distances to attend the first Blue Mass as a way to remember those who lost their lives or served during the Sept. 11 attacks.

“As I recall, we had a number of firefighters and police officers who came actually from New York to join us for this Mass,” Rocca said.

The first few Blue Masses usually ended with a speaker who “actually experienced the Sept. 11 attacks,” Rocca said.

On Wednesday, the Blue Mass placed more of an emphasis on the local community, “not so much geared toward inviting people from New York,” Rocca said.

An “open invitation” was extended to local, municipal, county and state law enforcement and fire agencies, University of Notre Dame Security/Police Director Rex J. Rakow said.

The Blue Mass is “kind of a new thing, but we think it’s an important new tradition that we’ve started,” Rocca said.