By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
A new generation has emerged since the pipes and drums of the first Diocesan Celebration of Law Enforcement – widely known as the Blue Mass – first echoed through Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral 19 years ago.
Photo Gallery: 19th annual Blue Mass
So, it seemed fitting April 17 that scores of Catholic school students, representing that new generation, were among nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers who filled the Cathedral to capacity for the annual gathering celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. Students from Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and Notre Dame High School and St. Ann School, both Lawrenceville, served at the altar, provided the musical liturgy and stood in prayerful support for the men and women who dedicate themselves to the public.
Indeed, Trenton Catholic Academy senior Katrina Rivera, an alto, called it an honor to sing and pray “for the men and women who serve us every day and keep us safe.”
Officers representing more than 100 departments and associations from Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the greater metropolitan area formed a long blue line outside the Cathedral before entering in a measured cadence. The pipes and drums of the Camden County Emerald Society, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Department of Corrections and the NY/NJ Port Authority filled the nave with “The Minstrel Boy.”
Among those in attendance were law enforcement family members, the community at-large and a host of civic officials including Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy; state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal; State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan; Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.
The solemn presentation and posting of dozens of departmental flags set the tone for the Mass in which Bishop O’Connell called down God’s blessing on those of all faiths.
That All May Hear
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell called the Mass a time to thank the men and women who protect and serve. “It is an opportunity to raise you up and ask Almighty God to watch over you, to care for you, to protect you the way a father and mother watch over and care for and protect their children.”
He described the Blue Mass, which was concelebrated by more than 10 of the Diocese’s priests, as a celebration of faith in God, a faith that is sometimes tested by the darker side of life, but one that “enables we who are believers to see with different eyes the mysterious hand of God, the Father, without whom life in this world would never make any sense at all.”
Acknowledging the risk and the sacrifice of their profession, Bishop O’Connell told the law enforcement community that “God saves us from the darkness of this world. We take him at his Word: ‘Greater love than this no one has than to lay down his life for his friends.’”
Just as prayers are offered for “the fallen brothers and sisters whose memories we honor,” so, too, are prayers offered for “you, the living, that none of you will ever have to make that ultimate sacrifice in the service that you render,” he said.
The Bishop’s words were echoed in the Prayers for the Faithful, led by State Trooper Joseph Drew and Hopewell Police Chief Lance D. Maloney, for the safety of all in law enforcement and enduring peace throughout communities that will overcome divisions as “we learn to work together” for the benefit of all.
Prayers were requested for all law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their community, including Berkeley Township Sgt. Alison Wray, who died of a stroke in 2017.
Among the gift bearers was Donna Lamonico, widow of State Trooper Philip Lamonico, who was killed in 1981 during a traffic stop. Others included Commander Rudolph Frank, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Officer Rob Voorhees, Hopewell Township Police Department, who are both members of the Blue Mass Committee.
Several Catholic school students said they found it meaningful to attend a Mass with hundreds of law enforcement officials and their families.
“I’ve never been to a Blue Mass,” said Natalie Kobus of St. Ann School, whose father is with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “It was very nice to see all the flags and to pray for the law enforcement officers.”
Notre Dame senior Brennan Eppinger is president of the school’s recently formed Patriot Club. He said the club, which has organized several service projects over the past year, draws inspiration from the examples of the men and women who serve as police and in emergency management. Eppinger is a volunteer firefighter.
Retired Lt. Howard “Buddy” Allaire of the Trenton Police Department, who chairs the Blue Mass Committee, said the presence of the young people and their enthusiasm added greatly to the overall joy of the day.
Lorraine Ernest, an officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agreed. “I think it was wonderful to see them participate in the Blue Mass. It gave them an opportunity to see law enforcement close up.”