By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
An American flag waved from the top rung of the DeWitt Fire Department’s ladder truck across the street from St. Joseph Church in DeWitt. Meanwhile, Patriot Guard riders greeted uniformed public safety professionals with a flag line as they entered the church for a Blue Mass. A bagpiper filled the air with patriotic music.
“It’s very nice that our community is honoring us for our service,” said Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln, a member of the DeWitt parish. He noted that law enforcement professionals observe a lot of negative reactions in their line of work. “It’s nice when someone is reacting positively.”
Before the Mass began on Sept. 19, head organizer Matt Grillot asked for God’s protection and blessing on the public safety officials in the congregation, “many of whom are volunteers.” Grillot is a past Grand Knight of the DeWitt Knights of Columbus council.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula quipped as he began the Mass, “I’ve never felt so safe in my life!”
In his homily, Bishop Zinkula thanked God for giving the public safety professionals in the congregation the gifts to do what they do, noting the ways they have helped his family. “When my parents needed EMTs, you were there for them. When my sister was in a bad accident, police were there, thanks be to God. When we had a fire on our farm, firefighters were there. First responders were there for us.”
He prayed for the safety of public safety professionals, and recognized that not every situation they encounter will have a happy ending. “It’s not a perfect world. Sometimes people can’t be helped or saved. We pray for them and their families.”
On Sept. 11, Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington hosted its second-annual Red, White and Blue Mass to honor public safety professionals, as well as active and retired military professionals and health professionals. Last year, Bishop Emeritus Martin Amos celebrated the Mass.
This year, parish pastor Father Marty Goetz celebrated the Mass because Bishop Zinkula was in Rome for bishop formation.
As with the Mass in DeWitt, all honorees were invited to dress in uniform. “It was a true service of honor for those who protect the common good,” said Susan Moss, communications committee chairperson for the Burlington parish. “The scheduled date of September 11th only added to the specialness of the event.”
Fr. Goetz borrowed a homily that Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., gave on Sept. 10, 2001 — the day before he died in the Sept.11 terrorist attacks while serving as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.
“Good days. And bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do,” Fr. Goetz read from Fr. Judge’s last homily. “You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job — which is a mystery. And a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.”
Major Dennis Kramer, a Burlington police officer and Divine Mercy parishioner, said he appreciated the homily’s message as well as the support shown by the congregation. “We do what God has called us to do; the Red, White and Blue Mass strengthens my faith in all that is good in God’s kingdom, even though we may be stepping into potentially terrible and evil situations.”