By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
Having served as Dallas police officers for a combined 34 years, husband and wife Stephen and Tami Cleary understand how crucial the role of faith can be in their profession, especially when encountering life’s darker side on a daily basis.
“Faith gives you the ability to understand that there is a greater good,” said Stephen Cleary, a detective in the Dallas Police Crime Scene Unit. “It’s almost therapeutic in a sense. It helps you stay focused and do the job you need to do.”
The Clearys, along with their four children, were among dozens of law enforcement officers and first responders in attendance at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on June 10 for the Diocese of Dallas’ first Blue Mass, recognizing the service of the city’s law enforcement, fire and EMT workers.
Standing outside the cathedral before the start of the Mass, Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns blessed police vehicles, fire trucks and even a few mounted patrol horses, sprinkling holy water on them and greeting officers as they passed.
“It is an honor for us to be in your presence,” Bishop Burns said during his homily. “It is a privilege for us to celebrate this Mass with you and for you. We are absolutely blessed with your dedication, commitment and service to the wider community.”
That service, he said, is not easy today when split-second decision-making is required amidst complex circumstances within society. Alluding to last year’s tragic shooting in downtown Dallas that claimed the lives of five police officers, Bishop Burns said first responders often place their own lives in jeopardy for the sake of others.
“We are mindful of those who have fallen in protecting our city and our community,” Bishop Burns said. “We pledge to you a partnership, a cooperation, a solidarity whereby you know our prayers and support for all that you do. We need you, we love you, we support you and we pray for you.”
Valerie Zamarripa said faith and prayers are the biggest reasons she has been able to endure a very difficult year. Her son, Patrick Zamarripa, was among the five officers killed in the downtown shooting on July 7, 2016. The Blue Mass, she said, helps reassure first responders that they are appreciated and highly valued in the community.
“This is a very special day, especially for our Catholic community, being met by the bishop who blessed all the law enforcement officers, firemen everywhere and all our first responders,” Zamarripa said. “We need to keep them safe because they keep us safe.”
For the Clearys, that recognition and sense of appreciation from the community does not go unnoticed. During their years on patrol, both encountered many dangerous situations that could have placed their lives in jeopardy. Despite that, they said they approach their profession with the confidence borne of their training and the consolation that flows from their faith.
“It’s nice to know that the church is behind us and that our city is behind us,” Tami Cleary said. “You have to understand that there is a greater role. You may not always understand God, what he’s thinking or what he’s planned, but you need faith to be able to get from one day to the next.”