Blue Mass celebrations planned for public safety personnel 

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

MASHPEE, Mass. — Diocesan faithful will have unique opportunities to honor and pray for public safety personnel during two upcoming Blue Mass celebrations.

The first will be celebrated on Thursday, September 29 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, 947 Park Street in Attleboro, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

This is La Salette’s second annual Blue Mass celebration, which is traditionally held on Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, who is the patron saint of police officers.

Uniformed personnel from all branches of area public safety departments — police, fire and emergency medical services — are cordially invited to attend, along with the general public.

A first-ever Blue Mass celebration will also take place on Friday night, October 7 beginning at 7 p.m. at Christ the King Parish in Mashpee.

“We’re including all the police and fire departments in the Mashpee area — actually the Christ the King Parish area, which includes Cotuit, Marstons Mills and the Town of Mashpee,” said Deacon Gregory J. Beckel, who is coordinating the event for his parish.

While the Red Mass — celebrated for judges, attorneys and those working in the legal profession — has been an annual tradition in the Fall River Diocese for some time, the Blue Mass hasn’t been as ubiquitous here; but Deacon Beckel hopes these celebrations might inspire a new, diocesan-wide trend.

“We were thinking of possibly expanding it to include the entire Cape Cod area,” Deacon Beckel told The Anchor. “I’m not sure about expanding it across the diocese, but we have a feeling there will be a lot of support for this, especially with everything that’s been going on nationally. I think we can expect a lot of participation and some large crowds — at least, that’s my best guess.”

A Blue Mass is celebrated annually in the Catholic Church for those employed in the public safety field — everyone from police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers, to 911 operators and EMS personnel. The color blue relates to the blue-colored uniforms predominantly used by these services.

“Traditionally the Blue Mass is celebrated for the ‘people in blue,’ but I think it extends to the fire department, EMTs and other emergency personnel,” Deacon Beckel said. “Ours will include the Mashpee fire and police departments, the Cotuit fire and police departments, and the Barnstable Police are going to be part of it as well.”

Similar to the Red Mass, the service honors those who have died in the line of duty and those currently serving as first responders. The Mass is also an opportunity for the community to show gratitude to first responders and their families.

In Washington, D.C., the service is typically celebrated in conjunction with National Police Week.

The first Blue Mass was celebrated on Sept. 29, 1934 at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C. and was inaugurated by Father Thomas Dade as part of his duties with the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society.

Like that first Blue Mass, the impetus behind Christ the King’s celebration came from Deacon Beckel’s work as chaplain to the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“At the beginning of the year I became the Spiritual director for the St. Vincent de Paul Society,” Deacon Beckel said. “So we were talking about having a day of reflection for the St. Vincent de Paul Society group, of which we have more than 300 members, and we were talking about how the local police and fire departments have helped so much with raising donations — especially for our food bank.”

Since St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day is September 27 and St. Michael’s follows quickly behind on September 29, Deacon Beckel thought it would be appropriate to combine the two and have a Blue Mass sponsored by the St. Vincent de Paul Society as a way of thanking the area public safety groups.

“We wanted to thank them because they’ve helped us out so much,” he said. “So that’s how it started. Because of scheduling conflicts, however, we decided to delay it one week and have it October 7.”

Planning for the Mashpee Blue Mass started back in April, when Deacon Beckel began meeting with members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and representatives from area public safety departments.

“We’ve been planning this with the cooperation of the fire chief from Mashpee, the fire chief from Cotuit, the police captain from Mashpee, and we’ve also had some help from a parishioner named Chris Hughes, who has been helping to plan the Liturgical aspects for us,” Deacon Beckel said. “He’s been involved in a lot of our Liturgies, ever since he’s been very young, but lately even more so. Deacon Frank Fantasia and myself have been involved as well.”

Since talk about public safety personnel, especially police officers, has become a predominant topic in the national media, Deacon Beckel said the timing is right to honor these public servants whose “lives are always in danger.”

“When we started this, all the killings and controversy over the police hadn’t happened yet, so it took on added emphasis after all these incidents came up,” Deacon Beckel said. “I don’t know how many members of the departments will be attending … (but) interest in it has grown immensely in the past couple of months.”

The Blue Mass at Christ the King Parish will be celebrated by pastor Father Edward J. Healey, and Deacon Beckel said they have “invited all local churches in the area to participate.”

After the Mass celebration, there will be a reception for all those attending inside the parish hall with refreshments and desserts.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts