By Peter G. Sánchez
Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency responders serving in the six counties of the Camden Diocese were honored at the 13th annual Blue Mass, held the morning of Sept. 29 at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Blackwood.
In St. Agnes Church, the men and women from Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties, with their families, gathered for the liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
Father Robert E. Hughes, vicar general for the diocese and homilist for the Mass, thanked the service men and women for “your service, dedication, and the many sacrifices you, and particularly your families, make, so that we might worry a little less.”
He noted the appropriateness of the day, as the Blue Mass fell on the feast of the Guardian Angels, which celebrates St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael.
St. Michael is the patron of police officers.
Recalling the day’s reading from the Book of Revelation, which he said told of a “great battle between the forces of evil, between angels and demons,” Father Hughes reminded them that “you who serve in law enforcement and as first responders are witnesses to this battle on a daily basis. Like God’s angels watching over us, you choose to respond knowing that good can and will overcome the darkness of evil and fear.”
“The willingness to sacrifice (your time and lives) is key,” he continued, saying that their sacrifices are “the antidote to selfishness and is the only expression of love that defeats the evil present in our world.”
Identifying the schoolchildren in attendance, from elementary and high schools around the diocese, Father Hughes reminded the officers, firefighters and responders that “you are and should be heroes to them.”
Elementary and high school students from Our Lady of Hope, Blackwood; Holy Spirit High School, Absecon; Paul VI High School, Haddon Township; St. John Paul II, Stratford; St. Teresa, Runnemede; St. Margaret, Woodbury Heights; St. Vincent de Paul, Mays Landing; St. Peter, Merchantville; and Guardian Angels, Gibbstown attended the liturgy with their school, but others came with their families in support of those who serve.
“It was a beautiful Mass, and a nice opportunity to appreciate our heroes who help us,” said Nick Iadonisi, an eighth grader from Our Lady of Hope.
Maddie Marinuk’s father is the Chief of Police in Woodbury, and the Paul VI sophomore attended the Mass “to support him, and pray for my father and those who work with him.” In doing so, she said, she “gained appreciation for the men and women who serve our local communities (and) insight on how much pride people have for our country and how important it is to serve others.”