By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — During a Blue Mass honoring law enforcement, firefighters and first responders May 16, Bishop Martin Amos thanked them. “This Blue Mass is an opportunity, on behalf of all of us whom you serve, to recognize you, no matter what your role might be,” he said in his homily. The Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Parish was hosted by the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council 15725.
More than 400 people attended the Mass, concelebrated by Fathers Paul Appel, Chuck Adam, Rich Adam, Jason Crossen and Tony Herold. Before Mass began, Fr. Herold, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle, acknowledged Davenport police and fire chaplains Fr. Appel, Fr. Chris Young, Pastor Merle Warnsholz of Trinity Lutheran and Matthew Petersen of Church of God. An honor guard presentation of colors included representatives of the Davenport and Bettendorf police departments, Davenport Fire Department and Scott County Sheriff’s Office.
Bishop Amos focused his homily on the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, which is being celebrated worldwide. The Catholic Church celebrates jubilee years every 25 years, but an extraordinary jubilee year marks an event of great importance, he noted. St. John Paul II declared the last extraordinary jubilee year, in 1983, marking 1,950 years since the death and resurrection of Christ.
Pope Francis opened the Door of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 8, 2015, marking the start of the Year of Mercy. “Certainly for Pope Francis, and now for all of us, the mercy of God is indeed an outstanding event of importance. … It’s an opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God, which is to encounter God himself. It is an invitation to love, kindness and unbound generosity. An invitation to transform our lives, our relationships, our work,” the bishop said.
St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians says, “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. … So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” Bishop Amos said all are called by baptism to a ministry of reconciliation to allow God’s mercy to touch not only ourselves but others through us.“As first responders you are in a unique position to see your profession truly as a ministry, a ministry of reconciliation,” the bishop said.
He noted that first responders enter situations where they must be the voice of reason, patience, calm and peace in the midst of brokenness. “You must remain calm when others are angry and agitated. You must bring comfort when others are afflicted. You must bring peace where this is discord. … Every time you are on a call it is an opportunity to exercise this ministry to be a reconciling presence, an ambassador of Christ entrusted with the message of reconciliation.”
He closed his homily acknowledging the first responders’ dedication and thanking God that they had chosen this vocation of service. He prayed for their safety and well being and for God’s blessings upon them.
Following Mass, a reception was held in Denning Hall. Jeremy Shirk, with the Davenport Fire Department and a member of its honor guard, thought the Mass was great and he was excited that the bishop was the presider. “This is my first Mass with the bishop,” said Shirk, a parishioner of Our Lady of Victory in Davenport.
Lieutenant Brian Votroubek of the Iowa State Patrol said, “It was great to see the public come out and show their support. We really appreciate it.” The St. Paul the Apostle parishioner said the crowd was larger and had more first responders this year. “It was a great show of support.”
Corporal Jake Pries of the Davenport Police Department’s patrol division said the Mass was “awesome. It is nice to see an event like this and to be with other first responders.” He attended last year’s Mass. This year he had the privilege of being part of the honor guard.
Mark Gassen, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Knights of Columbus Council 15725, who helped plan the Mass and reception, said if success is based on numbers, the celebration was a success. But he bases success on how the first responders felt about the Mass. They were very appreciative, he noted.