By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
Booming music of bagpipes and drums reverberated through the worship space of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral April 30 as the New Jersey State Police, Department of Corrections and Port Authority Police Pipes and Drums processed into the Trenton church for the Diocese’s 20th annual Blue Mass.
As about 800 police officers, detectives, academy members and faithful supporters gathered to bear witness to the gift of God in the lives of all who serve and protect, a police color guard carrying the American flag and flags representing the various police departments of the Diocese passed by those comprising the sea of blue.
Photo Gallery: 2019 Blue Mass
Slideshow: Blue Mass 2019
During the Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and concelebrated by nearly a dozen priests of the Diocese, the Bishop reminded law enforcement members of the “reason and purpose” behind their presence at the Blue Mass, calling the Cathedral a “sanctuary of souls.”
“When a person walks through the doors of some sacred space … [it’s] usually connected with faith in God … I am certain that no one entering a synagogue or a mosque or a church to pray expects not to leave. How many times in recent months have people of faith lost their lives in a house of worship, for no other reason than that they were there ... inside.”
Bishop O’Connell delineated the various recent acts of violence in San Diego, Sri Lanka and New Zealand – all in different houses of worship, when faithful were killed for their beliefs by those who dared, he said, “to say they did it in the name of God.”
“That’s not the God I know,” Bishop O’Connell said with passion. “What kind of a world have we become, my sisters and brothers? What can we do? Where can we turn?”
The answer, he continued, is to turn to God, “who created the world and made it good … We are created to be good … to do good.”
The Bishop emphasized that while evil, sin, violence and hate were not present in the sacred spaces struck by violence, but rather came in from the outside, “We – you and I – we also walked in those bronze doors of this granite Cathedral. … We are the good guys, and no one, no thing will steal or murder or destroy our faith, nothing can extinguish the light of God’s love that faith reveals.”
The 20th anniversary of the Blue Mass, he continued, “is a strong and secure and symbolic door we walk through together, inspired by our faith in Almighty God, whether that faith is mighty, or sometimes ‘maybe.’ Together, united by our common calling ‘to serve and protect,’ identified by the uniforms and badges and titles we wear; together on the shoulders of those brave women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families; together, determined to face down death and demons and fears and worries and the very powers of hell for us long as God gives us, convinced that God is with us ... this day, all days.”
Also during the Blue Mass, commemorative pins were blessed by the Bishop and distributed to all law enforcement in attendance, along with holy cards of the St. Michael prayer.
Retired Lieutenant Howard “Buddy” Allaire of the Trenton Police Department, chairman of the Blue Mass Committee since 2011, was recognized by Bishop O’Connell and the Diocese for his leadership.
“It’s wonderful,” Allaire said of the recognition and of the Blue Mass. “This is my eighth year as chairman. It’s tough to keep the flame going – but as much work as it is, it’s very fulfilling… I’m humbled and honored.”
Among those in attendance to honor the men and women in blue were Gov. Phil Murphy, his wife, Tammy, and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
Linda Serafine, a parishioner of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, and retired corrections officer of 14 years in the New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, attended the Blue Mass with her sister-in-law, Loretta Serafine, a member of Mary Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown.
“This is our 11th year attending,” Linda Serafine said. “We love this service very much. I started coming when I was [working] in the prison; to me it was powerful to come here in my uniform and be with other officers … from all over.”
Loretta Serafine considered the Blue Mass “a way to honor those who risk their lives every day, regardless of what field they’re in, and what they do – they try to make it safer for us. It’s just a way of saying thank you.”
Linda Serafine called her former job as a corrections officer difficult – but that burden was made easier with the blessings of the Blue Mass.
“I enjoyed doing what I was doing, but it could be hard, and I appreciated that they had a Mass for us,” she said.
Husband and wife Jack and Trudy Breuer, parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, were attending the Blue Mass for the first time and brought friends, as well.
“It’s an honor to be here for the 20th anniversary … when it comes to handing out accolades, [law enforcement] sometimes get ignored in today’s world.”