Blue Mass will show support for emergency responders

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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The recent shootings and deaths of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., have driven home the need for the Archdiocese of St. Louis's annual Blue Mass to pray for and with first responders —police officers, fire fighters, EMTs and other public servants — and their families.

The second annual Blue Mass will be at 10 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 11, which also is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. About 400 police officers and firefighters were among the 3,000 killed in the attacks. A Catholic priest also was killed on 9/11 while administering last rites to a firefighter as a department chaplain.

"Those events highlight the need to show support and appreciation for our first responders, and to pray for them," said Father Michael Boehm, the archdiocesan vicar for priests, a chaplain for the St. Louis County police and a former volunteer firefighter in Washington, Mo.

He's heard only positive feedback from first responders.

"They're excited about it," he said. "They're grateful and appreciative we're doing it again."

Father Boehm will concelebrate the Mass, with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson as the main celebrant. Last year, former Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice, who has had three brothers on the St. Louis City police force, was the main celebrant.

For Father Boehm, a lasting memory of last year is Bishop Rice being asked in a TV interview if the archdiocese would have another Blue Mass. Bishop Rice answered without hesitation, just as he did in being appointed bishop for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Giradeau.

"He said, 'Absolutely, we'll do this again,'" Father Boehm said. "We plan to make this an ongoing, annual event."

An ad-hoc committee responding to the Ferguson crisis two years ago developed the first archdiocese Blue Mass, picking up on a concept initiated almost 82 years ago. St. Patrick Church in Washington, D.C. held the first Blue Mass, on Sept. 29, 1934, with more than 1,000 police officers and firefighters attending. Since then, the tradition has expanded to other archdioceses and dioceses, as well as to individual parishes. As pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Washington, Father Boehm held one in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, in 2011. It was well-received.

"It's just a good opportunity to show our support," he said. 

>>Blue Mass

When: 10 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 11

Where: Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue in the Central West End.

Why: To support, pray for and pray with first responders — police officers, fire fighters and EMTs.

>>St. Michael's Retreat

What: non-denominational, co-ed spiritual retreat for first-responders — police, fire, EMTs

When: Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 1-3.

Where: White House Jesuit Retreat, 7400 Christopher Drive in south St. Louis County

Cost: $50 for registration. White House operates on a free-will offering basis. Donations are welcome. Lodging and meals are provided.

POST credit: The Missouri Department of Public Safety's POST Program has approved the retreat for eight "Interpersonal" credit hours.

Information/registration: contact Joe Parisi at (314) 416-6400 or joep@whretreat.org 

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