FOLLANSBEE — Clergy and members of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church gathered Thursday to offer prayers to all police, firefighters and paramedics assisting citizens in emergencies and to healthcare workers and military personnel who work to protect and heal them.
The Reverend Daniel Maria Klimek, a professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, informed local emergency personnel and others attending the church’s Blue Mass of an incident in his hometown of Chicago.
Klimek said he was driving one day when he encountered a traffic jam caused by the shooting of a truck driver some distance ahead of him.
Shocked to find the man had been shot in the face, he stayed with him until local and state police and an ambulance crew arrived.
“If I felt like angels were greeting us,” Klimek spoke about the arrival of the officers.
He said the man miraculously survived the shooting as the bullet passed through his mouth and missed his brain.
Klimek said the media often pays more attention to the few law enforcement officers who do harm than to the many who work every day to keep their communities safe.
He said that often all law enforcement agencies are demonized for such misdeeds when they already carry a heavy burden in carrying out the responsibilities of their positions.
The priest said that evil is still present in the world and demons are as prevalent as angels.
“If you don’t believe demons are real, go see a Catholic exorcist,” he advised, adding, “No, the spirit realm is real.”
Klimek said that in addition to God’s protection, people can look to others who have stepped up to serve their fellow man.
He told the local police and firefighters present, “You are protectors, you are lights in your community. You have been given a great responsibility, but also the grace to rise to the occasion.
“Thank you, dear brothers, for your cross and for the gift of your sacrifices.”
It is usually observed during National Police Week and often on September 29, which marks the feast day of Saint Michael, the patron saint of police and soldiers.
The first Blue Mass, held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington in 1934, was suggested by the Reverend Thomas Dade, a member of the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society.
Blue refers to the color of many uniforms worn by first responders, but often prayers and blessings are also offered during a blue mass for those working in the military and health care fields.
They usually take place during National Police Week and often on September 29, which marks the feast day of Saint Michael, the patron saint of police and soldiers.
On Thursday, the Reverend Jude Perera, St. Anthony’s spiritual leader, asked each first responder and medic to stand as he introduced him and listed each’s years of service, which ranged from one year to 52 years.
“It is a great privilege to honor you for what you do for the community,” he told them.
They and others attending Mass were invited for refreshments afterwards.