Honor Guard -- A police color guard leads the April 18 Blue Mass procession into St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.
Honor Guard -- A police color guard leads the April 18 Blue Mass procession into St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

For the third time in as many years, the celebration of those in law enforcement known as the Blue Mass unfolded during the Octave of Easter in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

To view more photos from the 2017 Blue Mass, click here.

There, on April 18, hundreds of police officers, their families and those in related fields gathered with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., the principal celebrant, in the flower bedecked nave where only two days earlier scores of faithful had observed the triumph of their Savior’s Resurrection.

Among those attending the 18th annual event sponsored by the Diocese and coordinated by the Blue Mass Committee were officers from scores of departments and associations from throughout Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties and the greater metropolitan area. They filed in smartly after forming a long, blue line outside the Cathedral.

Their entrance was followed by the opening ceremonies that have become a hallmark of the event. The colors were proudly posted, the massed pipes and drums of multi-departmental corps set hearts to pounding and the presentation of dozens of departmental flags drew the dramatic opening to a close.

The assembly was joined by members of the community at-large and a host of civic officials including New Jersey Attorney General Christopher  S. Porrino;  Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes; Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson, and Christopher J. Gramiccioni and Joseph D. Coronato, prosecutors in Monmouth and Ocean counties, respectively.

All listened intently as Bishop O’Connell, in his homily, spoke of the intrinsic message of Easter: that all who live in Jesus, share his victory over death– winning the eternal gift of his company, love and support.

He urged those in attendance to never lose sight of the promise that Jesus “is watching over you always.”

“If you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, deep down in your heart,” he said, “if you believe in the Lord Jesus and he makes a real difference in your lives, you have the greatest hope and assurance possible: the Lord Jesus will never leave your side, never.”

The Bishop’s words came as balm in Gilead to those who remembered the three officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2016 – Senior Corrections Officer Nikeelan D. Semmon, who died of a heart attack on July 1 while on duty at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Center, Bordentown; State Trooper Frankie Lamar Williams, who died while on patrol when a car crossed the median on Route 55 and collided with his patrol car, and Trooper William G. Fearon, who succumbed Dec. 28 to cancer related to his recovery work at Ground Zero.

Trooper Fearon’s mother, Angela Fearon, was among those from Members of the Garden State C.O.P.S. and Survivors of the Triangle, who were gift-bearers during the Mass.

New Jersey State Police Officers of the Triangle, a New Jersey Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors Inc., provides training to law enforcement agencies on survivor victimization issues and educates the public of the need to support the law enforcement profession and its survivors.

At the luncheon that followed, Angela expressed her deep regard for the Bishop, who had taken her hands as she handed the bread to him during the Presentation of the Gifts.

The Bishop, she said, offered his condolences.

“He was wonderful. He took my hand and said that (her son) was present with us. It’s all I can ask for.”

Accompanied by William’s stepfather, Robert Padavano, Angela said that the Mass and communal meal were so beautiful, “I never wanted the day to end.”

A member of St. Mary Parish, Nutley, Angela said she takes consolation from the fact that her son, who “was so brave and had so much faith,” is now in the company of his late father, William, Sr.

Deacon James Scott of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, who was serving at the Mass for the third time, said that the consolation and support offered by the annual event is the most important aspect of the gathering.

It shows those serving in law enforcement and their families that “the Church has their back as the Bishop expressed in his homily. It’s a way of letting them know that they are not just out there alone. They take a lot of comfort in that,” Deacon Scott said.

Adding to the sense of support, he said, is the fact that the Mass is celebrated in the Cathedral – a meaningful gathering spot not only for those in Central New Jersey, but those from North Jersey, too.

Among those who traveled from North Jersey were a contingent of young people who plan to make law enforcement their careers.

Members of the CBC Explorer Post 4691 with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the young people ranged in age from 14 to 21. What struck them particularly, said Stephanie Mejia, the chief explorer, was joining with many law enforcement professionals for the Mass.

“The respect shown for the living and those who passed was so memorable,” she said. “It shows the way they support each other” and the way the Church supports them too, said Mejia, who will graduate from Mother Seton High School, Clark, this spring.

Lisandro Maldonado, 17, a senior in Newark’s North 13th Street Technical High School, echoed Mejia.

“It shows the unity of everyone from the federal government to the state” to local police forces and various agencies, Maldonado said. “It shows how they can all come together as one.”