Bishop Robert Deeley celebrates annual Blue Mass in Bangor
BANGOR---Asking God to grant the first responders courage, wisdom, strength, and compassion, Bishop Robert Deeley celebrated the annual Blue Mass on Sunday, September 17, at St. John Church in Bangor.
The Mass is an opportunity to show gratitude towards and to pray for those who work in public safety, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, and game wardens, all of whom were represented at the Mass.
“We gather for this Mass each year for a single reason – to thank you for your service and to assure you of our prayerful accompaniment with you in carrying out that service. That is why we are here this morning. We want to be sure that you who serve us as first responders know of our gratitude for that service,” the bishop said.
The Blue Mass began to be celebrated in the Diocese of Portland after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It was established to honor the first responders who, as the bishop said, “brought hope and good to a dark day.” Now, 22 years later, the Blue Mass not only pays tribute to that heroism but honors all those in public safety who serve our communities every day.
The bishop said our faith calls us to live outside ourselves, to value each person, and to come to the aid of those in need, and that is what first responders do.
“You, our first responders, protect the right that all of us have to safety, to private property, and to life itself. That is what makes the jobs you do so very important to all of us. You have responded to a call to serve the community, the common good, to build a just society, and to protect the vulnerable,” the bishop said.
The bishop noted that while September 11th was a unifying time for the country, with more people responding to the call to military or public service, the COVID-19 pandemic has had the opposite effect, leaving many departments short-staffed. With that added challenge, the bishop said it is especially important to show appreciation for those who serve our communities.
“We need to pause, as we are today, to realize that we encourage them by our thanks. And, in so doing, we show them a respect that might help our young people to realize that service as a first responder is a valuable way to strengthen the bonds of our community,” the bishop said. “In the midst of a somewhat divided society, you go about trying to keep order. We pray for you today, grateful for your service and asking God to bless you all. And we pray as well for our society, that your service might remind all of us of the need to strengthen the community within which we live by resolving to live beyond our own self-interest and devote our efforts to helping each other.”
Representatives of different public safety agencies participated in the Mass by sharing the readings and bringing up the offertory gifts. They included Amy McCrea, the Bangor Police Department’s victim assistance coordinator; Bangor Police Officer Matthew Leffel; Julia Horst of the Maine Warden Service; Bangor Deputy Police Chief David Bushey; and Sargent Taylor Dube of the Maine State Police. In addition, Deacon Jeffrey Lewis, chaplain for the Gardiner Fire Department and a former EMS provider and firefighter, served at the Mass.
“It means a lot to us in law enforcement to have the community and to have the Church support us because, ultimately, we do what we do for the greater good of the public, so this type of thing lets us know that the support exists, and we appreciate it,” said Sgt. Dube.
“It’s an honor to be part of it,” said Deputy Chief Bushey, who grew up attending St. John Church and said it was nice to have the Blue Mass return there. “To bring it up into the central part of the state is good, just to spread the word and involve law enforcement in parts of the state that maybe don’t have the opportunity to attend the Blue Mass down in Portland. We work unusual hours a lot of the time, with overnights and weekends, so the opportunity for the diocese to show appreciation for law enforcement in this area is a nice thing.”
The Blue Mass was last celebrated in Bangor in 2017. It has also been celebrated in Portland, Lewiston, and Caribou.
The Mass drew first responders from a wide area. The blue, red, and tan uniforms of police officers, firefighters, game wardens, and sheriff’s department officers could be seen throughout the congregation.
Jim Davis of the East Millinocket Police Department said he attended the previous Blue Mass celebrated in Bangor and didn’t want to miss the chance to attend another in uniform before his upcoming retirement.
“It’s nice to see all the officers coming together from all over the state,” he said. “You get an idea of how many people are religious. They may not necessarily be Catholic. They may be other denominations, but you see them here at the Blue Mass.”
Also attending the Blue Mass were several dignitaries including U.S. Senator Susan Collins and State Senator Joseph Baldacci, who represents Bangor and Hermon in the state legislature.
Before and after the Blue Mass, Bob McDermott, a retired police detective who now serves as the director of the diocese’s Office of Safe Environment, played the bagpipes outside the church. However, some of the pomp usually associated with the Blue Mass was absent this year because of the need for some first responders to be involved in preparations for the storm that hit Maine on Saturday or to respond to the problems that resulted from it.